The Corner

Education

Trio of Academics Prank ‘Grievance Studies’ Journals, Publish Ridiculous Hoax Papers

They tell their story over at Areo.

Unfortunately, the experiment was cut short when the Wall Street Journal investigated an especially absurd publication that had gone viral — “Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon.” (Yes, it was about dogs mounting each other and how their owners respond.) But before pulling the plug they published four hoaxes and had three additional papers accepted for publication. Seven more papers were at various stages of the review process, though they had to retire six papers “as fatally flawed or beyond repair.” Several journals invited them to review others’ articles on the basis of their scholarship.

Among the accepted papers, my personal favorites include a “rambling poetic monologue of a bitter, divorced feminist, much of which was produced by a teenage angst poetry generator before being edited into something slightly more ‘realistic,” and part of a chapter from Mein Kampf with academic buzzwords strategically subbed in.

As is frequently the case with these stunts, you can quibble about exactly how absurd each article really was and how prestigious the journals were. Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk says they are “major” journals but “won’t get you tenure in traditional fields at most Ivies.” And UCLA sociologist Gabriel Rossman points out that journals in his own field acquitted themselves well, rejecting all the submissions from this project, while “grievance studies” journals bit hard.

But I highly recommend the Areo piece, which goes far beyond pointing and laughing to actually critique these fields on a substantive level. A snippet:

The center of the problem is formally termed “critical constructivism,” and its most egregious scholars are sometimes referred to as “radical constructivists.” . . . This problem is most easily summarized as an overarching (almost or fully sacralized) belief that many common features of experience and society are socially constructed. These constructions are seen as being nearly entirely dependent upon power dynamics between groups of people, often dictated by sex, race, or sexual or gender identification. All kinds of things accepted as having a basis in reality due to evidence are instead believed to have been created by the intentional and unintentional machinations of powerful groups in order to maintain power over marginalized ones. This worldview produces a moral imperative to dismantle these constructions. . . .

Any scholarship that proceeds from radically skeptical assumptions about objective truth by definition does not and cannot find objective truth. Instead it promotes prejudices and opinions and calls them “truths.”

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