Social:Grievance Studies affair

From HandWiki
Short description: 2018 group of bogus academic papers
Grievance Studies affair
Thumbnail of video Academics expose corruption in Grievance Studies.jpg
Lindsay and Pluckrose in a YouTube video about their hoax
TypeHoax; the attempt to publish bogus academic papers
MotiveTest the quality of the editorial and peer review process
TargetAcademic journals within some specific subfields, including cultural studies and Gender studies
First reporterJillian Kay Melchior, of The Wall Street Journal (2018-10-02)
Organised byJames A. Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, Helen Pluckrose
Filmed byMike Nayna
OutcomeOut of 20 papers submitted, 4 published, 3 accepted but not yet published, 6 rejected, 7 still under review (at the time when the hoax was revealed, and halted)

The Grievance Studies affair, also referred to as "hoax" or the "Sokal Squared" scandal (in reference to a similar 1996 hoax), was an attempt by a team of three authors (James A. Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose) to create bogus academic papers and submit them to academic journals with the intent of testing the strength of the editorial and peer review process.[1][2][3]

The hoax began in 2017 and ended in 2018. The authors targeted the academic areas of cultural, race, gender, fat, and sexuality studies in which they believed poor science was undermining the field, which they collectively refer to as "grievance studies".[1][4]

The project was halted early after one of the papers was criticized on social media, then its authenticity questioned on Campus Reform,[5] and finally the hoax being more broadly exposed by the Wall Street Journal in 2018 alongside a YouTube video created and released by documentary filmmaker Mike Nayna.[1][4][6]

By the time of the reveal, four of their 20 papers had been published, one had won an award, three had been accepted but not yet published, six had been rejected, and seven were still under review.[7][1][8][9][6][10][11][12][7][13][14]

Sequence of events

The origins of the hoax date back to the summer of 2017, when, with the purpose of testing the quality of the vetting process by academic journals in some fields within the humanities, Lindsay and Boghossian published a bogus paper called "The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct" in a Cogent Social Sciences.[1]

In August 2017, Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose, editor in chief of Areo Magazine, took that concept further and began to write a larger set of papers and started submitting them to peer-reviewed journals under a variety of pseudonyms, as well as the name of their friend Richard Baldwin, a professional bodybuilder, professor emeritus at Florida's Gulf Coast State College, and friend of Boghossian.[1]

The papers made bizarre recommendations including chaining up children and keeping men on leashes. Another paper which added up-to-date jargon into passages lifted from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was accepted by leading feminist social work journal Affilia.[1]

At first, some of the studies accepted for publication were variously praised by their academic reviewers as "a rich and exciting contribution to the study of ... the intersection between masculinity and anality", "excellent and very timely", and — in the case of feminist Mein Kampf — offering "important dialogue for social workers and feminist scholars".[7][8]

Discovery of hoax

The project was halted early after one of the papers in the feminist geography journal Gender, Place & Culture was criticized on social media, and then its authenticity questioned on Campus Reform on July 2018,[5] which led a Wall Street Journal editorial writer to investigate and report on it.[1] The paper, which was in the process of being retracted when the Wall Street Journal "Fake News Comes to Academia" story broke, referred to dog parks as "petri dishes for canine rape culture". When the Wall Street Journal piece broke, the trio released a YouTube video filmed by Nayna that revealed the back-story behind the project. Nayna is making a documentary film on the trio and their project.[15][16]


The project drew both praise and criticism, with author and Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk dubbing it 'Sokal squared' in reference to the famous Sokal Affair hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal and said "The result is hilarious and delightful. It also showcases a serious problem with big parts of academia." Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker said the project posed the question "is there any idea so outlandish that it won't be published in a Critical/PoMo/Identity/'Theory' journal?"[17]

Responses by the editors of the publishing journals

Ann Garry, a co-editor of Hypatia, which had accepted one of the hoax papers ("When the Joke’s on You", purporting to be a feminist critique of hoaxes) but had not published it yet, said she was "deeply disappointed" by the hoax. Garry told the New York Times that "Referees put in a great deal of time and effort to write meaningful reviews, and the idea that individuals would submit fraudulent academic material violates many ethical and academic norms".[1] Nicholas Mazza, the editor of the Journal of Poetry Therapy, said, "Although a valuable point was learned regarding the authenticity of articles/authors, it should be noted that the authors of the ‘study’ clearly engaged in flawed and unethical research".[1]



Slate criticized the project, saying "one could have run this sting on almost any empirical discipline and returned the same result."[6] Similarly, Harvard University professor Sarah Richardson criticized the hoaxers for not including a control group in their experiment, telling BuzzFeed News, "By their own standards, we can’t scientifically conclude anything from it."[10]

List of hoax papers

Accepted and published

  • Helen Wilson (pseudonym) (2018). "Retracted article: Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon". Gender, Place & Culture: 1–20. doi:10.1080/0966369X.2018.1475346. ISSN 0966-369X. 
  • Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity) (2018). "RETRACTED ARTICLE: Who Are They to Judge? Overcoming Anthropometry and a Framework for Fat Bodybuilding". Fat Studies: 1–13. doi:10.1080/21604851.2018.1453622. 
  • M. Smith (pseudonym) (2018). "Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use". Sexuality & Culture. doi:10.1007/s12119-018-9536-0. ISSN 1095-5143. 
  • Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity) (2018). "An Ethnography of Breastaurant Masculinity: Themes of Objectification, Sexual Conquest, Male Control, and Masculine Toughness in a Sexually Objectifying Restaurant". Sex Roles. doi:10.1007/s11199-018-0962-0. ISSN 0360-0025. 

Accepted but not yet published

  • Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity). "When the Joke Is on You: A Feminist Perspective on How Positionality Influences Satire (Originally accepted, but not published)". Hypatia. 
  • Carol Miller (pseudonym). "Moon Meetings and the Meaning of Sisterhood: A Poetic Portrayal of Lived Feminist Spirituality (Originally accepted, but not published)". Journal of Poetry Therapy. 
  • Maria Gonzalez, and Lisa A. Jones (pseudonyms). "Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism". Affilia. 


  • Lisa A. Jones (pseudonym). "Rubbing One Out: Defining Metasexual Violence of Objectification Through Nonconsensual Masturbation". Submitted to, and rejected by: Sociological Theory. 
  • Carol Miller (pseudonym). "My Struggle to Dismantle My Whiteness: A Critical-Race Examination of Whiteness from within Whiteness". Submitted to, and rejected by: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. 
  • Carol Miller (pseudonym). "Queering Plato: Plato's Allegory of the Cave as a Queer-Theoretic Emancipatory Text on Sexuality and Gender". Submitted to, and rejected by: GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies. 
  • Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity). ""Pretty Good for a Girl": Feminist Physicality and Women's Bodybuilding". Submitted to, and rejected by: Sociology of Sport Journal. 
  • Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity). "Grappling with Hegemonic Masculinity: The Roles of Masculinity and Heteronormativity in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu". Submitted to, and rejected by: International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 
  • Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity). "Hegemonic Academic Bullying: The Ethics of Sokal-style Hoax Papers on Gender Studies". Submitted to, and rejected by: Journal of Gender Studies. 
  • Richard Baldwin (borrowed identity). "Self-Reflections on Self-Reflections: An Autoethnographic Defense of Autoethnography". Submitted to, and rejected by: Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 
  • Brandon Williams (pseudonym). "Masculinity and the Others Within: A Schizoethnographic Approach to Autoethnography". Submitted to, and rejected by: Qualitative Inquiry. 
  • Helen Wilson (pseudonym). "Rebraiding Masculinity: Redefining the Struggle of Women Under the Domination of the Masculinity Trinity". Submitted to, and rejected by: Signss. 

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Schuessler, Jennifer (October 4, 2018). "Hoaxers Slip Breastaurants and Dog-Park Sex Into Journals" (in en). The New York Times. 
  2. "Another set of fake papers takes aim at social science's nether regions" (in en). The Economist. 
  3. Mounk, Yascha (2018-10-05). "What an Audacious Hoax Reveals About Academia" (in en-US). The Atlantic. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Jillian Kay Melchior (2018-10-02). "Fake news comes to academia". The Wall Street Journal (United States). Retrieved 2018-10-05. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Academic journal duped by author of 'dog rape culture' article" (in en-US). Campus Reform. 2018-07-25. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Engber, Daniel (2018-10-05). "What the "Grievance Studies" Hoax Actually Reveals - The headline-grabbing prank has more to do with gender than with academia" (in en). Slate. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "A degree of shame as academics fall for grievance studies hoax apps" (in en). 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Pluckrose, Helen; Lindsay, James A.; Boghossian, Peter (October 2, 2018). Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship. 
  9. "Academics defend fake research, say it exposes 'political corruption' in universities" (in en-GB). SBS. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Hughes, Virginia; Aldhous, Peter. "Here's What Critics Say About That Big New Hoax On Gender Studies" (in en). Buzzfeed. 
  11. Whipple, Tom (2018-10-04). "Journals publish hoaxers' absurd gender studies" (in en). The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. 
  12. "Academics Expose 'Grievance Studies' Field by Submitting Hoax Papers to Journals" (in en-US). The National Review. 2018-10-03. 
  13. Drezner, Daniel. "A paper that would never have gotten past peer review criticizes the academy. Film at 11." (in en). The Washington Post. 
  14. Drum, Kevin. "Cultural studies is the target of another hoax — and this one stings" (in en-US). Mother Jones. 
  15. "Academic Hoax Reveals Deep Problems in Social Sciences" (in en). The Stranger (Seattle, Washington, USA). 
  16. Nayna, Mike (2018-10-02), "Academics expose corruption in Grievance Studies", Youtube,, retrieved 2018-10-12 
  17. "'Sokal Squared': Is Huge Publishing Hoax 'Hilarious and Delightful' or an Ugly Example of Dishonesty and Bad Faith?". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2018-10-03. 

External links