Noam Chomsky Defends Academic Freedom of Professor Who Wrote Pro-Colonialism Paper

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AP Photo/Adel Hana

Leftist scholar Noam Chomsky has come to the defense of a professor who has come under international fire for a journal article he wrote which defended colonialism.

A journal article entitled, “The Case for Colonialism,” by Bruce Gilley, an associate professor of political science at Portland State University, has spurred an international backlash. Scholars from around the globe are demanding that the journal who published Gilley’s work retract the article, and others have called for Gilley’s alma mater to revoke his degree.

The article was published in Third World Quarterly, a journal which focuses on the development of third world countries. A petition, which has garnered over 10,000 signatures, demands that the journal retract the entry, claiming that it serves to justify the “brutalizing” of “those who have suffered under colonialism.”

Leftist scholar Noam Chomsky, a member of the editorial board at Third World Quarterly, condemned the calls for Gilley’s entry to be retracted, claiming that such a decision would open “dangerous doors.”

Despite his concerns, fifteen of his colleagues resigned over the board’s decision to publish Gilley’s work. In a strange statement, the resigning board members claimed that Gilley violated free speech principles by causing “offense and hurt” with his writing.

<with a heavy heart>19 September 2017 LETTER OF RESIGNATION FROM MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD OF THIRD WORLD…

Posted by Vijay Prashad on Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Third World Quarterly Editor-in-Chief Shahid Qadir defended the decision to publish the entry, arguing that the journal has a long history of publishing diverse perspectives.

“Throughout its 40-year history, TWQ has been at the forefront of shaping development discourse, with Viewpoint essays enabling challenging opinions to be tested … and then debated upon publication by fellow researchers,” Qadir argued.

The journal is not endorsing the “pro-colonial” views of its author, “as would be the same for any Viewpoint piece,” he added. “We are however presenting it to be debated within the field and academy, which this justifiably has been.”

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