Third World Quarterly & the colonialism debate

A short overview over events after the publication of "The Case for Colonialism" in Third World Quarterly


  1. Third World Quarterly (full disclosure: I published an article in the journal with a co-author)
  2. "The Internet" notices the article
  3. The petition goes viral...
  4. Farhana Sultana with some powerful reflections on facebook:

    (28 September: Farhana informed me that she deleted her original facebook post and does not want it to be shared further)
  5. The first proper rebuttals come in
  6. "It’s also worth noting that neither these arguments nor Gilley’s own essay touch on the worst legacies of colonial rule: violence, discrimination and repression. One study found that only 10 percent of African countries have experienced ethnic conflicts that can be traced back to some pre-colonial origin. Authors David Leonard and Scott Straus argue that the rest of these conflicts are explicitly products of the colonial experience."
  7. "I think the gut reaction of many people will be that Gilley’s arguments are “self-evidently” absurd. But apparently this is not the case, because the Third World Quarterly chose to publish them. I don’t know why they made that decision; frankly, it’s very strange. The board of TWQ is stocked with anticolonial lefties like Vijay Prashad and Noam Chomsky, and while Prashad has said that they didn’t see the article before publication (and threatened to resign if it’s not retracted), it’s odd that the editors themselves thought an essay suggesting that the Belgians should recolonize the Congo was a useful contribution to scholarly discourse.
    But while TWQ’s motives remain inscrutable, I suspect I understand Gilley’s. This article does not read as if it is attempting to be taken seriously. Its tone toward critics of colonialism is polemical and mocking (these scholars have a “metropolitan flaneur culture of attitude and performance”). Gilley must intend to provoke people to rage"
  8. TWQ responds...well, the editor does
  9. "some wondering if retraction threatens to replace rebuttal as the standard academic response to unpopular research"
  10. The bigger picture of metricized academia
  11. "Surely, these views are not entirely new. That they exist is not shocking. We are slowly getting used to the alt-right. However, that these ideas and strategies, distilled into academic writing, not only get published but immediately jump to the top of some of the key metrics we use to identify success, influence, and “impact” in academia – this is chilling. Because this means not only that academia can be hacked, but that it already has been.
    This article represents the culmination of broader trends in academia: from marketisation, to impact, to the promotion of artificially adversarial debate."