Against Bruce Gilley's Colonial Apologetics

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It has come to our attention that Lexington Books, an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield, has green lit a book series entitled Problems of Anti-Colonialism that is co-edited by Bruce Gilley. A few years ago Gilley expressed his poorly researched thoughts on colonialism and anti-colonialism in a paper that was retracted from Third World Quarterly. The retraction was based on the fact that it had been published without peer review and simply in the interest of debate, causing fifteen members of the journal’s board to step down. Moreover, despite Gilley’s complaints about being “silenced”, the fact was that his thesis that colonialism was good and that anti-colonial theory misrepresented the goods of colonialism was based on a misrepresentation of source material and egregious historical revisionism. More than one response to his retracted paper revealed the shoddiness of his research, demonstrating that he should not be taken as a scholarly expert in the area of colonialism and anti-colonialism.

It is troubling that someone who has never seriously studied the history or theory of colonialism and anti-colonialism, and has only recently insinuated themselves in this field, should be treated as a serious scholar. His only published work in this area was retracted because it did not meet academic standards, because he misrepresented and misunderstood the work to which he was referring. Imagine if a scholar of Renaissance Art declared themselves an authority on ancient Egyptian history and wrote a paper ignoring or misrepresenting the work in this area. Or imagine a scholar of Pythagoras wrote a paper for a contemporary astronomy journal arguing for the relevance of astrology. Or a Six Day Creationist publishing their thoughts against Darwin in a reputable biology journal. We would rightly castigate this “scholarship” as inadmissible just as we would castigate flat earth theorists. Why, then, is the field of the history of colonialism and anti-colonialism not held to the same standard? Why is horrendous scholarship, which largely ignores a century of work, treated to lax publication standards? We hope the answer is not that white nationalism, which is ultimately the position Gilley’s work would lead a reader to endorse, cancels out rigorous scholarship.

Moreover, considering that Rowman and Littlefield has published the work of leading scholars in anti-colonial theory and history, we find it strange that the same publisher is choosing to promote a scholar who has shown that he has very little knowledge in this area but instead wants to abide by outdated and disproven historical perspectives about colonialism. Gilley is under the impression, along with the rising white nationalist trend, that European colonialism was good and spread civilization! His own work has shown a pig-headed refusal to deal with the rigorous historical analyses that have demonstrated otherwise; he has in fact misrepresented some of this material.

Hence we are calling on Rowman and Littlefield to terminate Gilley’s series because Gilley not only fails to meet the standards of scholarship in the area his series is purportedly about, but because he endorses a white nationalist perspective that is opposed to historical research itself. It is difficult to believe that the volumes in this series will accomplish anything more than lend academic credibility to paternalist and eurocentric revisionism and neo-colonial and settler-colonial propaganda and policy.

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