The world, it seems, cannot get enough of Sokal-type hoaxes.
A French journal, Sociétés, has retracted an article allegedly penned by one Jean-Marc Tremblay but actually written by two sociologists, Manuel Quinon and Arnaud Saint-Martin, who spoofed the work of the journal’s editor, Michel Maffesoli.
As the Crooked Timber blog explains, the article, “Automobilités postmodernes: quand l’Autolib’ fait sensation à Paris,” published in the
is about the Autolib, an electric car rental service available on a subscription basis in Paris.
In the article, the “transgender” Autolib is described as the turning point for the modern episteme, as the return to the protection of the primordial matrix, and so on. Being well-versed in maffesolese, they know that “modern” is bad, faustian, promethean, and that “postmodern” is good, comforting and dyonisian. In less than 10 pages, they use half a dozen languages: French, English, German, Latin, Greek (in Greek and Latin alphabets), and various typographic affectations (italics, parentheses, slashes in the middle of words). The vocabulary is often complex—”glyschomorphous”, “phallogocentric”, “diairetico-schizomorphous”—but lacking any particular definition. At the center of the article lies a pun. “Essence”, in French, is both essence (as in essential), and gasoline (as in oil). Thus our fictional author writes that the Autolib is “an open car, but not in essence because it is an electric car”. They also insist that postmodernity is “gaseous”, because Zygmunt Bauman’s modernity is “liquid”. The Autolib reveals itself in conclusion as the origin of a “new directing myth for a new epoch (postmodernity)”.
A month later, on March 7, the two authors, who were former students of Maffesoli’s, disclosed their hoax, and an embarrassed Maffesoli retracted the paper, apologizing to the journal’s readers and citing Descartes. Apparently, one of the peer reviewers had said the paper was “a bit on the jargon-y side,” according to the notice.
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