AHRC Doctoral Award (Daniel Boswell)

  The contemporary globalisation of publishing, both books and magazines, represents: an increased flow of products across national borders, often superficially customised for different language groups, Hóla and Hello magazines or Harlequin and Mills & Boon romances; the increased homogeneity of transnational textual culture, where Harry Potter is a best-seller and 'classic' children's book everywhere; and the consolidation of publishing houses into two or three transnational groups, Hachette, Bertelsmann, Elsevier. My research will investigate the effects of this phenomenon within two national regions of the EU, Scotland and Catalonia, not only upon the indigenous publishing industries there but also upon the sense of cultural identity of both within the wider UK and Spanish as well as EU contexts. Both areas represent clearly designated 'test-beds' with significant features of civil society, including education in Scotland and language in Catalonia, distinct from those of the nation-states of which they are members. Each has a high level of devolved government including responsibility for culture and publishing (as opposed to other media such as television). Each has a strong sense of a distinct history and each has probably had a cultural influence generally beyond that its size of population might suggest. Both regard themselves as being in the midst of a process of cultural and political development rather than at its completion. My work originates therefore in a strong sense of cultural and political urgency as well as a spirit of scholarly, academic inquiry.

This research will gather data on authorship, general (including magazine) and educational publishing, libraries, bookselling, readership, and support mechanisms being used or potentially available within each national region. Primary sources in English, Catalan and Spanish, including interviews with key agents and stakeholders within publishing in each national region, will form the basis of an analysis of the current role of publishing in the formation, maintenance and dissolution of cultural communities. In doing so, I will also provide an historical perspective on the development of the publishing industries within each region, set in the context of concurrent political and cultural development, to establish a diachronic sense of the relationship between publishing, culture and identity. The role of the state, forms of patronage, and the nature of the educational systems in Scotland and Catalonia will represent key aspects of my investigation, particularly in so far as they may or may not privilege indigenous products and companies without infringing national or European commitments to a free market. In particular, this area of analysis will inform the search for mechanisms that can accommodate, on the one hand, the globalised nature of much publishing and associated intellectual property rights regimes and, on the other, the production, distribution and promotion of national/regional books and magazines. This search is based on the premise that we must have access to a diversity of voices and stories. However, the defensiveness that can characterise any support mechanisms is balanced by their capacity-building nature for the publishing sector as part of the creative and cultural economy of national regions such as Scotland and Catalonia - again this forms part of an understanding of publishing as a 'cultural industry' with equal emphasis on both words in that description.

The conclusions that are drawn from all this material will possess the potential for strong policy impact in terms of ongoing concerns over threats to cultural and linguistic diversity in Europe and I will seek to disseminate them appropriately. Although for reasons of time and linguistic competence, this research will cover Scotland and Catalonia, the methodologies it employs and the conclusions it draws will have wider application across a number of small nations and national regions.

  • Start Date:

    1 September 2009

  • End Date:

    31 March 2014

  • Activity Type:

    Externally Funded Research

  • Funder:

    Arts & Humanities Research Council

  • Value:

    £40000

Project Team