Hub van Wersch – Grijpen naar lucht

Last modified: May 13, 2019

The story concerns competition for a tenured professorship and breaches of research integrity in anthropology. The background narrative is the fascinating history of the biggest strike ever: more than 250,000 textile workers in Mumbai refused to work for 18 months. It was unsuccessful and it ended the industry locally. Academic intrigue and animosity between colleagues active in the same field of inquiry are the heart of the story that is spelled out with many recognisable details. For those who are not active in the field of anthropology the book might confirm the impression that this academic discipline has strong similarities to investigational journalism.

The main character stumbles over information that his competitor for the chair may advise his students to engage in data fabrication and has committed plagiarism. The plot consists of an entertaining mix of complications of conducting research in India, attempts to influence the decision on the tenured chair, and instances of adultery. Time pressure, sloppy data management and a crashed computer lead to a fabricated research report. Now both competitors have engaged in research misconduct. This turbulent novel illustrates how dilemmas in both academic and personal life can be mishandled under the influence of external pressures and internal character flaws connected to an oversized ego.

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