Scholarly communication is conceptualised as one type of communication whose single contributions are highly interrelated globally. This is done so in social systems theory (see Section 2.2.1), but also in pertinent rhet
orics (see Section 2.2.2). Of course, disciplinespecific differences in scale of these interrelations are always acknowledged, but still, the ideal is to re
late new contributions to older highquality contributions within a scope determined by topical relevance, and not by publication venue. However,
16 Since the bulk of social systems theory is written in German, more accessibility for nonGerman speakers is definitely needed, even though I am aware of a strong Luhmann reception in Latin America, see Zincke 2014, which I cannot access myself because of the language barrier.
the publication venue is crucial, because if an author is not aware of pub
lished literature that could be referred to, a reference to it will not be made.
Literature published in the ‘Global North’ is easier to discover than lit
erature published in the ‘Global South’, and it is therefore privileged. I am convinced that the exact extent to which this privilege acts is virtually impossible to numeralise, so the statistical evidence this thesis provides is intended to support the sturdier conceptual discussion—instead of doing it the other way around.
My main aim is to render visible the ways in which European academic libraries contribute to unjustified neglect—in terms of the globally operat
ing research system—of scholarship produced in the ‘Global South’. This neglect is explained as a consequence of specific crucial features of cur
rent world society, referred to as coloniality, social injustice, and quanti
fied communication. I claim that the organisation of the research inform
ation market, and by proxy, of academic library collection management, according to the principles of quantified communication, contributes con
siderably to this neglect: competition rules out contributions that are seen as peripheral, and privilege is given to research authored in the ‘Global North’. This thesis addresses the features of the research system which seem to be related to this social problem. Further, it describes how the system is affected by patterns of coloniality, as well as by the increasingly quantified communication in society. Moreover, the thesis elaborates on the impact of current global societal developments on Southeast African research dissemination infrastructures. Finally, on the example of Euro
pean academic libraries, it examines how those societal developments are interrelated with professional values, specifically neutrality, and collection management workflows.
My suspicion is that ‘peripherality’ of research is semantically closely linked to publishing in ‘local’ rather than in ‘international’ publication outlets. By following the debate, my research discusses the ‘standards’ by which a publication outlet is seen as ‘international’. How can the differen
tiation in central and peripheral research communication be described and explained with the help of social theory? In one of the more empirical parts of the thesis, I suggest a way of describing peripherality scientometrically
(see the next section for an introduction to bibliometrics and scientomet
rics): based on a sample, how is Southeast African basic SSH research in
tegrated in global scholarly communication? Publication venues give hints about discoverability.
Further, I claim that the inequality of participation in SSH communica
tion follows trenches of social injustice which are omnipresent in society at large. Those trenches also become visible in the classification of SSH know
ledge in ‘classical’ SSH such as philosophy, history, sociology et cetera, on the one hand, and in area studies, on the other hand. This classification ex
tends, in some European countries, to the responsibility of a single special library for publications from Africa. Because of physical and informational distancing to other SSH disciplines, those publications are somewhat isol
ated. Therefore, I denote this problem as ‘area studies incarceration’.
After all, assuming that researchers represent the interests of local popu
lations at least to some extent, this thesis asks how far the world society’s re
search system is out of balance in terms of involving local interests globally.
The suspicion can be upheld that the research system instead only serves the interests of a minority. Regarding the interests of the majority of the world’s population, the system is, at best, barely fulfilling its function, and at worst, it can even do harm, as this thesis will show. This constellation is maintained by research evaluation and funding decisions that heavily rely on mainstream bibliometric databases for its quantified communication.
There is no bibliometric data source readily available to conduct the respective study on Southeast African basic SSH research, but rather this database needs to be constructed. A ancillary aim of this thesis therefore is to contribute to a clearer picture about the blind spots of bibliomet
rics: my study needs to include what is excluded by standard bibliometric data sources, and therefore almost from bibliometrics themselves, and the study reflects upon this exclusion. I want to demonstrate how a typical methodology—bibliometrics relying on Web of Science (WOS) and Scopus—
can be modified to live up to the sensitivity required for studies that address or include postcolonial regions by claiming their global focus.
I further argue that bibliometric science studies alone, specifically when framed in geographical terms, include very little contextual information
which is often needed for interpretation. Any number of publications, cita
tions or collaborations has to be accompanied by numbers of institutions and of potential authors present within that geographical framework. It then becomes more visible that certain databases are strongly geograph
ically biased and inappropriate for many interregional and international comparative approaches. My bibliometric studies are therefore embedded in scientometric studies.
Scientometrics often compares, for instance, countries, disciplines, insti
tutions, or individual researchers. This thesis does not aim at any compar
ison of, for instance, European and Southeast African SSH researchers and their work, or of ‘local’ journals in different world regions. Social and his
torical contexts are, on many accounts, totally different. Possibly, some of my findings for Southeast African SSH literature might be somewhat similar to results that could be found when applying my methodology to Swedish or Southeast European SSH literature, but this is out of this thesis’ scope.
Since my approach of combining specific sociological premises with an ori
ginal bibliometric methodology is unprecedented, comparative references studying ‘local’ SSH literature could be easily misleading, notwithstanding that those studies are rare (see Section 3.6.1). In regard to my research ques
tions, little could be learned from a comparison between ‘Southern’ and
‘Northern’ regions. If certain inequalities can be observed for ‘Northern’
SSH, this result would not add any argument to the discussion of the prob
lem that is dealt with in this thesis, since the grounds on which privileging would happen will, most likely, differ to a large extent. On the contrary, such comparisons reproduce an alleged ‘divide’.
Finally, I also aim at a theoretical contribution with this thesis. Implicitly, social systems theory informs my way of formulating research questions for the individual studies of this project, and, more explicitly, guides my interpretation of results. My way of reasoning is not oriented towards hy
potheses that can then be verified and become theories; rather, I am aiming at the development of interesting questions, valid observations, and inter
pretations that can contribute to the thematic field in which my research problem is situated, and to the development of social systems theory itself.