14 Comments

Hello. I’m Dr so-and-so. I have discovered the cure to cancer but I cannot publish my research because I refuse to submit a positionalty statement, insisting that my work be judged on whether or not it cures cancer. Oh well, nevermind.

Expand full comment
May 1, 2023Liked by Sally Satel

If the authors feel the need or are required to include positionality statements, that is a clear indication that independent researchers may not be able to reproduce the results following the authors' materials and methods. Results that cannot be reproduced independently are not science and should not be published. Often when independent researchers fail to reproduce published results, editors are forced to retract scientific publications. Retracted publications indicate shoddy research, poor editing or, worst case, fraud.

Expand full comment

It would be more beneficial to have every author include their favorite cartoon as a figure in the manuscript. That would truly reveal the deep twisted, unreliable nature of their psyche-- and would be much more appreciated by the readers.

Expand full comment
May 2, 2023·edited May 2, 2023

I enjoy learning something new, so i was glad to learn of "positionality statements". Sadly, the encounter has exposed my thoroughly philistine outlook. The examples strike me as self-regarding virtue signaling, as annoying as any instance of false modesty I've ever heard. They would serve one useful purpose, to warn the reader that what follows is likely a tendentious, jargon filled monologue, opaque to anyone except the audience on which the author's professional advancement depends.

Expand full comment

A potentially major issue with positionality statements is that they are an invasion of privacy. Not all immutable traits or personal identifications are obvious to the casual observer. Our skin color may very well be distinct, but not our sexual preferences, gender identity, ethnicity, religion, or many other aspects of our identity. And it's a profound and intrusive breach of individual freedom to place any kind of obligation on anyone else to reveal anything about themselves that they simply may not want to.

Expand full comment

I can't help wondering if the foundations of this idea in ethnographic research might be more illuminating even than the article gives them credit for. After all, we've been taught, told and scolded for decades now that we each live in a kind of foreign culture, foreign certainly to anyone who does not share some demographic characteristic that is assigned full explanatory force for everyone with that characteristic, and bars anyone without it from ever understanding those who possess it.

For myself, I'll stick with the ancient writer, Terence and his modern follower, Maya Angelou, believing that I am a human being, and therefore nothing human is foreign to me.

Expand full comment

Yeah, but you don't get intersectional points for just being a Human.

Expand full comment

Where is the laughing grimly emoji when you need it?

Expand full comment

Trump made them do it. That’s obvious. Both ‘women’ played leading roles in the events of 1/6/2020. Both take orders directly from Trump. The two ‘women’ are well-known MAGA fanatics. It is not clear that these ‘women’ are actually ‘women’. Perhaps, they are men.

As for Merton. What do you expect of a white, racist (but I repeat myself), heterosexual, homophobic, transphobic, cisnormative, patriarchal, male, MAGA fanatic. His bigotry is the sort of thing you would naturally expect from such an extremist.

As for ‘Physics’ (education). Of course, ‘Physics’ is racist. Everyone knows that. Gravity is part of ‘Physics’. Gravity is colorblind. Colorblind is racist. Gravity is racist. Everyone knows that.

Expand full comment

Well, of course. That's why Alan Sokal had such a comparatively simple task in deconstructing the notion of "gravity" as nothing but a social construct in his groundbreaking work, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity".

As for the practice of peer review, I'd have thought, as a complete outsider, that the great"Sokal Squared" hoax by Lindsay, Pluckrose, and Boghossian, coming on top of Sokal, would have prompted academics to engage in serious self-examination of their quality control measures. My favorite title in that series: "Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon". The title alone should have alerted the editorial staff of the journal, much less the reviewers, that something was up. But what do I know?

Expand full comment

One of the 'Sokal Squared' papers was taken from 'Mein Kampf' (chapter 12). Predictably, feminists loved it. See 'Duped academic journal publishes rewrite of ‘Mein Kampf’ as feminist manifesto' (https://www.timesofisrael.com/duped-academic-journal-publishes-rewrite-of-mein-kampf-as-feminist-manifesto/).

Expand full comment

As you probably do know, Sokal's paper was published in 'Social Text'. 'Social Text' is still around, published by Duke University Press.

Expand full comment

I may be a little far afield. What that brings to mind is an inquiry Miss Manners received some years ago. The couple had accepted an invitation to a party where they were to be the guests of honor. When the date arrived, however, they had forgotten the event entirely. In response to the question, what should they do, Miss Manners replied, "Simple. Change your name. Move to a small town. And devote the rest of your lives to anonymous good works in behalf of the poor." I'd hope at least the journal's staff responsible for accepting Sokal's paper offered their resignations.

Expand full comment

I can't help but wonder if some readers will reject Dr. Satel's argument out of hand because of her institutional affiliation, the American Enterprise Institute. That kind of reaction happens depressingly often, from all across the political spectrum.

Expand full comment