‘Predatory’ Open Access Journals as Parody: Exposing the Limitations of ‘Legitimate’ Academic Publishing

  • Kirsten Bell University of British Columbia
Keywords: open access publishers, predatory journals, academic publishing, parody, mimicry


The concept of the ‘predatory’ publisher has today become a standard way of characterizing a new breed of open access journals that seem to be more concerned with making a profit than disseminating academic knowledge. This essay presents an alternative view of such publishers, arguing that if we treat them as parody instead of predator, a far more nuanced reading emerges. Viewed in this light, such journals destabilize the prevailing discourse on what constitutes a ‘legitimate’ journal, and, indeed, the nature of scholarly knowledge production itself. Instead of condemning them outright, their growth should therefore encourage us to ask difficult but necessary questions about the commercial context of knowledge production, prevailing conceptions of quality and value, and the ways in which they privilege scholarship from the ‘centre’ and exclude that from the ‘periphery’.

Author Biography

Kirsten Bell, University of British Columbia

Kirsten Bell received her PhD in social anthropology in 2000 from James Cook University in Australia. She is an Honorary Associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and has published widely on the anthropology of public health. Her six-year editorial stint with a subscription-based academic journal has convinced her of the limitations of this model, and she is currently completing a Master of Publishing at Simon Fraser University to explore alternative scholarly publishing frameworks.