Pro-colonialism paper: how did it get published?

September 28, 2017

We are writing to complain about the recent publication of the article “The case for colonialism” by Bruce Gilley in the journal Third World Quarterly (“Pro-colonialism paper outcry prompts author to ‘request withdrawal’”,, 22 September). While we do not believe that the article should have been published in any academic journal, our complaint is in terms of the venue of publication and the editorial process behind its publication, and thus questions of academic rigour, accountability and transparency, as well as the content of the article itself.

While we find the argument and many of the claims made in the article unconvincing and offensive, we are particularly surprised to see such content published in this particular journal, without any real engagement on the part of the author with the critique of colonialism he rejects, or on the part of the journal with some form of introductory framing.

Although the journal’s aims and scope state that it is “not averse to publishing provocative and exploratory articles”, the article’s argument in favour of colonialism contradicts the origins of the journal “as an intellectual venue for anti-colonial thought, to build ideas against colonialism”, and its reputation as the “home of the Third World Prize, the Edward Said Prize; the home, in other words, of values against this essay” (as editorial board member Vijay Prashad has stated). Arguments against publishing this particular article in this particular journal are therefore not arguments for censorship or against academic freedom, as the author has tended to argue previously. Rather, there is both a problem of venue and scientific integrity, and such arguments should be submitted elsewhere, and submitted to a process of peer review.

It seems clear that the article shouldn’t have got through the process of peer review, and therefore shouldn’t have been published, certainly not in this particular academic journal.

We are signatories to the petitions, and as well as seeking the paper’s retraction, we are calling for the editor/s involved to apologise for further brutalising those who have suffered under colonialism. We also ask, for the sake of accountability and transparency, for the editor/s responsible for the publication of this article to justify their decision to publish, to explain the process followed in reaching that decision, and to stand down from their editorial position/s. We believe that such actions are necessary to recompense for the offence that the article has and will cause, and to ensure that such historical revisionism for what is a crime against humanity not go unchecked.

Nadia Atia, Queen Mary University of London

Rahma Bavelaar, University of Amsterdam

Jumana Bayeh, Macquarie University, Sydney Australia

Christiaan De Beukelaer, University of Melbourne

Lisa Blackman, Goldsmiths, University of London

Véronique Bontemps, CNRS, Paris

Leyla Dakhli, CNRS, Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin

Simon Dawes, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun, Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7

Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London

Claire Gallien, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3

Nadia Hakim-Fernández, researcher at the Future Making Space, Aarhus University

Ahreum Han, discipline of exercise and sport science, the University of Sydney

Virginie Iché, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3

Umar Suleiman Jahun, School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex

Nicolas Jaoul, CNRS, Paris

Theodore Koulouris, University of Brighton

Lila Lamrani, Centre Jean Pépin

Souad Lamrani, Paris-Sorbonne University

Debora Lanzeni, Research Fellow, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Sara Marino, Bournemouth University

Angelo Martins Jr, Goldsmiths, University of London

Tom Mills, Aston University

Nelly Mok, Université Paul Valéry Montpellier 3

Aurélien Mondon, University of Bath

Aris Mousoutzanis, Principal Lecturer in Film and Screen Studies, University of Brighton

Souvik Mukherjee, Presidency University, Kolkata

Patricia Prieto-Blanco, Lecturer, School of Media, University of Brighton, UK

Nabila Ramdani, Journalist & Academic

Andreas Rauh Ortega, University of Leeds

Chris Roberts, University of Roehampton, London

Reuben Ross, Doctoral Candidate, Universidade Católica Portuguesa

Claire Savina, Research Associate University of Oxford

Maria Sakellari, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow, School of Media, University of Brighton

Andrea Schmidt, Willamette University

Elisa Serafinelli, University of Sheffield

Jon Solomon, Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3

Jacquie Tinkler, Charles Sturt University

Gavan Titley, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

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Reader's comments (1)

Surely, Third World Quarterly was precisely the place to publish “The case for colonialism”, where it can be most critically examined, rather than being hidden away somewhere it is unlikely to be challenged?


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