Thinking Globally, Connecting Locally: The Power of Place

At Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, our name reflects our mission: to connect with and publish for a truly global audience. We achieve this by publishing in multiple languages with the support of a diverse international team of Acquisition Editors. Our titles cross regional and language barriers, catering of course to their specific target audiences but ensuring that access to valuable research is not limited by geographical borders. Every book we publish aspires to a global readership. 

However, our commitment to ‘thinking globally’ is balanced by a deep understanding of the power of local connections. 

Personal Stories, Universal Themes

A recent title, A ‘proper’ woman? One woman’s story of success and failure in academia perfectly exemplifies this balance. A deeply personal memoir exploring the author’s experiences over a 46-year career in academic institutions across Ireland and the UK, the subject matter is intricately linked to the author’s physical and cultural space. Even the title, with its reference to a ‘proper’ woman, grounds the narrative in the specific societal expectations of the author’s time and place. Naturally, we would expect such a title to resonate more strongly with readers from the same region or those who have similar experiences. A sense of place helps to ground the title and provide an authentic and relatable voice for the author.

However, the power of A ‘proper’ woman? lies not just in its localized perspective, but in its exploration of universal themes. Professor Pat O’Connor explores experiences of devaluation, marginalisation, and disempowerment. These are not unique to academia or Irish society; they are universal human experiences. Readers from vastly different backgrounds can still find themselves reflected in the struggles and triumphs of the author, encouraging a sense of connection. These themes can connect readers across cultures and locations so that even a book with a keen sense of place can add value to a global audience, highlighting the shared threads and perhaps offering inspiration for those facing similar challenges. 

By exploring these universal themes through a localized lens, A ‘proper’ woman? offers a deeper understanding of the human condition. Professor O’Connor’s journey highlights the challenges faced by many women in academia, but also the resilience and determination required to overcome them. This resonates with readers across the globe who have faced similar struggles for equality, regardless of their specific location or background.

Universal Themes, Local Recognition

One of the most important roles of a publisher is to recognize and support that balance between global relevance and a localized sense of place, to maximize the exposure and readership for each title. Sometimes we come across a book review that details this so perfectly for a title, all we need to do is share it.

A recent review by Dr Evelyn Mahon in the Sunday Independent explores what makes Professor O’Connor’s book so deeply personal. Dr Mahon quotes Professor O’Connor as writing “In the Ireland I grew up in, it was very clear that domesticity, self-abnegation and self-sacrifice were key motifs in defining a ‘proper’ woman.” The review recognizes that this is a candid memoir from someone whose experiences were defined in many ways by the context of time and place. For this reason, it is particularly important that we see the title reviewed in an Irish newspaper, as perhaps in many ways some references are best understood by an audience close geographically as well as ideologically. 

Dr Mahon though, also highlights some of the most important takeaways of this fascinating book, that those challenges faced by Professor O’Connor paved the way to both success and failure and that “O’Connor’s contribution to a changing Irish academia is to be applauded.” It is a universal truth that only people fighting against inequality will make positive change happen, and that path is not always smooth. This drive for equality, particularly in academic institutions, is another topic of global relevance with Dr Mahon highlighting a strength of the book as “understanding the way in which gender differences are reproduced within academic institutions.” The review touches on so many of the core themes and excellently summarizes why this book is an invaluable read for so many.

As a publishing company, we see A ‘proper’ woman? as a title that exemplifies the powerful narratives that come when a book with a strong sense of place tackles universal themes. It allows readers to connect with the author’s experiences on a personal level, while also offering broader insights into the human condition and the ongoing fight for equality. This interplay is what allows it to resonate with the global audience and leave a lasting impact, and we thank Dr Mahon for the recognition of that in this review. 

You can find the full review here: A Proper Woman review: Pat O’Connor’s engaging memoir reveals the inequities of academia | Irish Independent

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