A hoax ex­poses ‘griev­ance stud­ies’

The Week (US) - - 16 News -

Three aca­demics have pulled off “a prank that is al­ter­nately hi­lar­i­ous, ap­palling, and dis­turb­ing,” said Charles Sykes in Week­lyS­tan­ Tak­ing aim at what they called “griev­ance stud­ies,” the trio pro­duced 20 “shoddy, ab­surd, un­eth­i­cal” pa­pers loaded with in­co­her­ent post­mod­ern “gib­ber­ish”—seven of which were pub­lished in “re­spectable” aca­demic jour­nals. Among the most out­ra­geous pa­pers in­cluded a the­sis claim­ing astron­omy is a pa­tri­ar­chal con­struct that should be re­placed by fem­i­nist astrology, an­other ar­gu­ing “dog parks are rape-con­don­ing spa­ces,” and still an­other that de­manded that males who mas­tur­bate while think­ing about a woman first ob­tain her con­sent. Their crown­ing achieve­ment was get­ting a jour­nal to pub­lish a chap­ter from Mein Kampf that sub­sti­tuted fem­i­nist buzz­words for Hitler’s anti-Semitic rants. Col­lege stu­dents are our coun­try’s fu­ture, said Su­mantra Maitra in TheFed­er­al­, yet they are be­ing shaped and brain­washed by ide­o­log­i­cal dogma no less ab­surd that this faked schol­ar­ship. Is that what par­ents are pay­ing for?

The hoaxsters found some real weaknesses in aca­demic schol­ar­ship, said Daniel Drezner in Wash­ing­ton­, but the brush they use to dis­miss the hu­man­i­ties “is way too broad.” Not all “griev­ance stud­ies” are ab­surd, and nei­ther is the be­lief that there are “power dy­nam­ics” be­tween peo­ple dic­tated by gen­der or sex­ual iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and race. Still, said Kevin Drum in, liberals and aca­demics should not de­fen­sively dis­miss what this hoax has re­vealed about this field. The three au­thors, all self-de­scribed liberals, had “no for­mal back­ground in the sub­jects,” but taught them­selves how to pro­duce ridicu­lous, jar­gon-filled pa­pers that were greeted with praise by “blindly re­cep­tive” aca­demic re­view­ers.

Not all fields of academia would pub­lish such non­sense, said Yascha Mounk in TheAt­lantic .com. All of the pa­pers the hoaxsters sub­mit­ted to main­stream so­ci­ol­ogy jour­nals were re­jected. But the find­ings were dis­turb­ing none­the­less. One of the fake pa­pers sug­gested pro­fes­sors should en­act “ex­pe­ri­en­tial repa­ra­tions,” such as chain­ing white stu­dents to the class­room floor to re­dress their “priv­i­lege” and de­mand­ing they re­main silent. Re­ally? If we’re “se­ri­ous about rem­e­dy­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, racism, and sex­ism,” then we have to ad­mit that “some aca­demic em­per­ors—the ones who sup­pos­edly have the most to say about these cru­cial top­ics—have no clothes.”

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