What Was The Real Target of the Latest Academic Hoax?


Recently a pair of philosophers, Philippe Huneman (CNRS / Paris I Sorbonne) and Anouk Barberousse (CNRS / University of Lille), writing under a pseudonym, submitted a nonsense article to the journal, Badiou Studieswhich accepted and published it (see this account, which I put in the Heap of Links last week).

The ostensible target of the hoax is Alain Badiou and his admirers. Yet, writing at his blog, Justin E.H. Smith (Paris Diderot University) takes a closer look.

My first reaction to both Huneman and Barberousse’s canular, as well as to Badiou’s ferocious response, was a deep sincere laugh…

But what sort of victory is it? Here my laughter on first reading Huneman and Barberousse’s text quickly gave way to two concerns. One is that the joke is not so much on the abstruse theory-heads, as had surely been the case in the Sokal incident. The joke isn’t on anyone who is committed to any particular ideology or style of thinking at all. The joke is, rather, on the folks running these pop-up online journals with their ludicrously low editorial standards.

Remarkably, the editors of the Journal of Badiou Studies even admitted as much when they complained of Huneman and Barberousse’s ‘dated’ method of attack “in an age when the pressures on independent Open Access publishing include underfunding and time-pressured staff.” In other words, the editors effectively confess that they do not have the resources to produce a decent journal on their own, and so must rely on the good will of the contributors to not send them crap.

But many people who submit to journals are not in a position to know of their own work whether it is crap or not, and for this reason alone a journal that does not have the resources to weed out crap would be doing scholarship a far greater service by simply not existing. The problem is compounded in the context of continental European publishing in English, where often, at every stage of production, from writing to proofreading to publishing, all of the people involved speak English, at best, as a second language. What slipped through at the Journal of Badiou Studies does not in fact look so different from what slips through on a regular basis at Springer or Brill…

It seems to me in other words that what this hoax exposes is not so much Badiou, or his gullible acolytes, but rather the dismal state of publishing today.

Thoughts from others on this assessment of the “state of publishing today,” and other aspects of the hoax, are welcome. I encourage people to read the entirety of Smith’s post, which is, characteristically, interesting throughout.

connected not connected

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