Profs petition to get pro-colonialism article retracted

Several professors have launched a petition seeking to take down an academic essay that extols the benefits of Western colonialism.

The appeal was launched on petition website and calls for Third World Quarterly, an academic journal published by Routledge, to apologize and retract Portland State University Professor Bruce Gilley's “appalling article” titled  The Case for Colonialism.

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“In truth, we originally thought this work was satire; if that is the case, it is satire that fails,” the professors write. “The sentiments expressed in this article reek of colonial disdain for Indigenous peoples and ignore ongoing colonialism in white settler nations.”

In the abstract of the essay, Gilley, a political science professor at Portland State University, argues that Western colonialism was “as a general rule, both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found, using realistic measures of those concepts.

“The countries that embraced their colonial inheritance, by and large, did better than those that spurned it,” he elaborates. “Anti-colonial ideology imposed grave harms on subject peoples and continues to thwart sustained development and a fruitful encounter with modernity in many places.”

Gilley also argues that the practice of colonialism “can be recovered by weak and fragile states today in three ways: by reclaiming colonial modes of governance; by recolonising some areas; and by creating new Western colonies from scratch.”

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In their response to the essay, the professors outline several key arguments that they consider questionable, and label the work to be “offensive,” “damaging” and “harmful.”

“It is an active attack on BIPOC [Black people, Indigenous peoples, and people of color] scholars, thinkers, and people, as well as on the project of decolonization,” the petitioners write. “In our current political context, the lives and safety of BIPOC, refugees, and allies are being threatened by radicalized white supremacist groups.”

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“Regardless of its intention, and we are already suspicious of those intentions given Professor Gilley's publication history and fields of inquiry, this article is harmful and poorly executed pseudo-’scholarship’ and should be retracted immediately,” they argue, adding that the journal “will continue to lose credibility the longer this article remains published.”

The petition, which was first published on Tuesday evening, has already surpassed 3,000 supporters by press time, with a tentative goal of 5,000 signatures.

Third World Quarterly and Bruce Gilley did not immediately return Campus Reform’s request for comment.

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