Over the last decade, piracy has emerged as a growing field of research covering a wide range of different phenomena, from fashion counterfeits and media piracy, through to 17th-century buccaneers and present-day pirates off the coast of Somalia.

In many cases, piracy is a metaphor or an analytical perspective to understand conflicts and social change.

My piracy research has been a decade-long collaboration with Dr Martin Fredriksson from Linkoping University (Sweden). More recently, we have also collaborated with Dr Sonja Schillings from  Justus-Liebig-University Giessen (Germany).

Earlier this year, we published an article that relates this fascination with piracy as a practice and a metaphor for academia. In the article,  we ask what a pirate methodology of knowledge production could be: how, in other words, researchers and educators can be understood as ‘pirates’ to the corporate university.

Drawing on the history of maritime piracy as well as on a discussion on contemporary pirate libraries that disrupt proprietary publishing, the article explored the possibility of a pirate methodology as a way of acting as a researcher and relating to existing norms of knowledge production. The methodology of the pirate scholar involves exploiting the grey zones and loopholes of contemporary academia. It is a tactical intervention that exploits short-term opportunities that arise in the machinery of academia to the strategic end of turning a limiting structure into an enabling field of opportunities.

In this article, we apply that perspective to ourselves and ask whether the approach of piracy as a method can help us understand our own position in academia. Recent scholarship, particularly in the humanities, has repeatedly stressed that the researchers’ perspective inevitably informs both the emphasis taken on methodology and research. Therefore, it is of particular importance that we untangle some of the complexities inherent in academic perspectives.

We hope that such a concept of pirate methodologies may help us – and you – reflect on how sustainable and constructive approaches to knowledge production emerge in the context of a critique of the corporate university. The modern university is far from the perfect institution but still provides both space and the opportunity, for us to be ‘academic pirates.

A copy of the article can be found here… “Bellamy’s Rage and Beer’s Conscience: Pirate Methodologies and the Contemporary University”, Culture Unbound, Volume 9, issue 3, 2017: 260-276.