This essay contributes a new perspective to debates about journal ranking lists and their effects on the practice of scholarship. Our argument is grounded in practice theory and draws on Bourdieu’s concept of field. We examine the effect of metrics, targets and rankings on Human Resource Development (HRD), a conjunctive field associated with the Management Learning and Education (MLE) field. We examine the ways in which the boundaries of the MLE field are shaped by journal ranking lists and how, irrespective of seniority in the field, scholars simultaneously experience both power and powerlessness as a result of journal ranking processes. We contribute a new perspective on issues of academic practice with consequences for specialized areas of scholarship. We conclude by proposing practical interventions that senior scholars and journal editors can undertake to challenge the undesirable effects of ranking systems and encourage scholarly diversity.