Wednesday, 10 October 2018

New hoax hits academia

It is a great achievement to be able to rewrite passages from Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' so as to appear to be a theoretical argument about social justice in an academic paper titled: 'Our Struggle Is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism.' A new Sokal hoax has hit the academic world, with quite diverse reactions. Remarkable is the critique levelled at the hoaxsters by academics, in an apparent defense of procedures, as if showing that nonsense can get into the field is somehow unethical. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article about the case. Quote:

"They [the critics, JB] do not know about Paul R. Coleman-Norton’s equally ingenious 'An Amusing Agraphon,' published in Catholic Biblical Quarterly in 1950, claiming to be the description of a newly discovered saying of Jesus that the author had happened upon in a Greek manuscript while serving in World War II in Morocco. According to Coleman-Norton, the agraphon has Jesus warning his disciples: 'In the furnace of fire there will be moaning and gnashing of teeth.' One of the disciples asks: 'But Lord, what if we have lost our teeth?' To which the Lord answers: 'Teeth will be provided.'"  

Academia is, like any human field of exploration, vulnerable to mistakes and nonsense. In culture, much more so in the absence of standards and the supposed subjectivity of creative endeavor, as can be seen in the collections of contemporary visual art in the established museums, and so much nonsense parading at new music festivals. Obviously, the 'work' of people like Marcel Duchamp (who exhibited an urinal as a work of art) and John Cage (who presented silence and environment noises as music) are charlatanesque hoaxes, different from the Sokal kind because intended to offer exploitation of a field without intended, objective standards so that any revelation is ineffective. The present hoax should be a serious warning for both academia and culture.

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