Pro-colonialism paper: how did it get published?
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 (“Procolonialism paper outcry prompts author to ‘request withdrawal’”, www.timeshighereducation.com, 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 change.org 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.
Université Catholique de Louvain Omar Anchassi
University of Exeter
Bergische Universität Wuppertal and 39 others
For the full list of signatories, visit www.timeshighereducation. com
It seems clear that the article shouldn’t have got through the process of peer review