CHSTM, University of Manchester: Lunchtime Seminar: Power, predation and the old boy’s club: Medical journals as communities of power, 1970-2000, 15th November, 1pm

‘Power, predation and the old boy’s club: Medical journals as communities of power, 1970-2000’, Eleanor Shaw (University of Manchester, UK)

In 2021, the Journal of the American Medical Association drew widespread condemnation for releasing a podcast and a tweet that appeared to deny the existence of structural racism in the US. The fallout led to the eventual resignation of the Editor in Chief and a Deputy Editor. Several of the critiques blamed the ‘old boy’s network’ at the journal for failing to include black contributors in the process of making and releasing the podcast. In the UK, recent research by Woodhams et al found black women surgeons are 42% less likely to be promoted to consultant level than white men and claimed that until ‘old boys’ networks’ are dismantled, the current exclusion of professionals along gender and racial lines from senior status will continue. But how are ‘old boys networks’ built and maintained? This paper will address this question through a case study of the British Journal of Anaesthesia (BJA), a high-impact specialist medical journal founded in 1923. Medical journals are elite institutions that play a significant role in shaping the leadership of the profession. They operate with limited oversight and use professional networks to recruit reviewers, board members and editors. Analysis of archive documents, oral histories and the printed journal itself finds this method of recruitment is legitimised through ideas of meritocratic assessments of intellectual ability, but actually results in mechanisms of exclusion being hard-wired into the organisational culture. As a result, sexist and racist events occur in the context of this elite and exclusionary organisation. This paper argues that within bonding exercises, away days and dinners, social capital is predicated on sameness, resulting in the exclusion of those who cannot replicate this sameness under the guise of intellectual inferiority.

Registration: This Seminar will be held virtually on Zoom. Please email – for the Zoom link

Details of seminar programme can be found here.


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