Anthropology Seminar presented by Lisa Wynn: The Toe Dialogues: Adventures in Predatory Publishing
Thursday 26 March, Room 341, Social Sciences Building
The open access movement has spawned hundreds of new journals that spam academics with invitations to pay to publish. A librarian coined the phrase “predatory publishers” to describe open-access journals that do not subject submissions to peer review, and a number of academics have tested the boundaries of this new publishing world by submitting, and occasionally publishing, ridiculous articles. As a cultural anthropologist, I am regularly invited to submit to astrophysics, engineering, and nursing journals. As a matter of personal entertainment, I started to reply to these e-mails, asking whether I could submit articles, photos, limericks and epic poems about toes. Most of these journals welcomed my toe submissions. In the anthropological tradition of analysing jokes, and situating these “toe dialogues” within a long academic tradition of journal pranks, I argue that the jokes academics play on pseudo-journals can tell us a lot about the terrain of academic publishing, from intellectual hierarchies to the international political economy of academic labor. In light of the business model of for-profit academic publishers like Elsevier, and the recent scandal at the open access anthropology journal HAU, we must query the concept of what it means for a journal or publisher to be “predatory.” There are many ways that academic publishing is predatory, and many ways that the system’s prestige economy is infused with exploitative hierarchies and pyramids schemes. The journals that want to charge academics a few hundred dollars to publish joke articles are, arguably, small fry when compared to some of the other operators with whom we all regularly consort. In fact, the reason why these small-fry predators get the disparaging label “predatory” is because they lack the social and cultural capital necessary for truly effective predation. These journals thus act as scapegoats for academics’ own dissatisfaction with academic publishing.
About the Speaker
Lisa L. Wynn is an Associate Professor and former Head of the Anthropology Department at Macquarie University in Sydney. Recent publications include the monograph Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Egypt: Navigating the Margins of Respectability (University of Texas Press, 2018) and the co-edited book Abortion Pills, Test Tube Babies, and Sex Toys: Exploring Reproductive and Sexual Technologies in the Middle East and North Africa (Vanderbilt University Press, 2017). Lisa received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Princeton University in 2003. In Australia, her research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Australian Research Council, and her teaching has been recognised with a national teaching award. In 2020 she is the President of the Australian Anthropological Society, which you can now follow on Instagram: @australiananthropology.