[WSMDiscuss] Fwd: Petition to TWQ

Ashish Kothari chikikothari at gmail.com
Thu Sep 14 18:44:07 CEST 2017

Astounding ...


-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: 	Petition to TWQ
Date: 	Thu, 14 Sep 2017 20:54:48 +0530
From: 	Bejoy K Thomas <bejoy.thomas at atree.org>
Organization: 	Centre for Environment and Development, ATREE, Bangalore, 

Dear friends,

I am forwarding a note from Farhana Sultana on the recent article (read 
below for details) published in Third World Quarterly glorifying and 
arguing for a return to colonialism. You might already know about this. 
Please read the appended details if you haven't, and sign the petition 
if you agree.



-- -- --

/Apologies for cross-postings:/

Dear colleagues,

I wish to bring to your attention a highly problematic practice in 
academia of not holding scholars or journals to high standards of 
accuracy, merit, or rigor. This is particularly so when they publish 
shoddy racist click-bait pieces. Some of you may already be following 
the debates for the last few days on other forums or online (there’s 
been a lot said on social media), but if you have not, I would be 
grateful if you could please read through this email and sign the 
petition below.

Recently, an author published a piece calling for the return of 
colonization and white supremacy in the well-respected journal Third 
World Quarterly. [In order to *NOT* raise the view or download metrics 
of the article or the journal, which will only increase its popularity, 
please read it for free here 
instead:http://fooddeserts.org/images/paper0114.pdf ] The article is 
full of inaccuracies & falsehoods, misqualifies existing scholarship on 
the topic, lacks proper citations, is poorly written and conceptualized, 
and morally reprehensible. It should’ve been rejected on lacking of 
academic merit alone, let alone the contents of its 
argument legitimizing racist brutality. The article seems like a faux 
‘shock’ piece to manufacture controversy and very much conforms to 
click-bait practices. The piece did not undergo the regular peer-review 
process as it was submitted as a Viewpoint. Even though Viewpoints and 
Commentaries are usually reviewed by several members of the Editorial 
Board for most journals, we are not sure whether TWQ does this at all. 
Apparently some of their own Editorial Board members were completely 
unaware of it until it came out in print. Some members of the Editorial 
Board (e.g. Vijay Prashad) have publicly threatened to resign if the 
article is not retracted. The Editorial Board consists of 
many distinguished scholars, so we are not sure who authorized the 
publication of this particular piece. Clearly whichever editor or 
editors who sanctioned the piece did not even bother to read it. 
  Journals should be held to higher standards than partaking in such 
practices, as otherwise it is a slap to our collective faces as scholars 
who strive for rigor, integrity and accuracy in our scholarship. We 
learnt that the journal wanted more ‘traffic’ to its website through 
publishing this piece, and thus we are actively discouraging people from 
giving them that (please view or download it above). We are instead 
calling for a retraction and an apology from the journal, and raising 
awareness of such problematic practices.
Here is a petition for this, which already has about 2000 signatures in 
a few hours. Please sign it and share widely: 

The author in question (a political scientist at Portland State 
University) has published white supremacist drivel in the past (e.g. 
supporting ethnic cleansing), and has made a name for himself in doing 
so. We all know there are plenty of colonial apologists in academia as 
well as overt and closeted white supremacists who 
enable/promote/encourage such success; many more support it through 
silence and enabling such behavior to go unchecked thereby allowing 
racism to flourish. Perhaps that is why there is an urge amongst many to 
act now. There are many other sites where meaningful interventions can 
be made about decolonizing, postcolonial critique, etc. (e.g. recent 
TIBG special issue on this, etc.). We encourage such endeavors as well. 
Engaging with this piece does not advance our knowledge of colonialism 
or anything else, and thus does not serve any purpose. Rather, it 
amplifies and emboldens horrific ideologies and practices to persist in 
academia and beyond.

What the journal probably did not expect is this much push-back or 
threats of boycott in readership as well as in contributing pieces or 
agreeing to peer review. These are strategies to hold journals 
accountable in my opinion. The lack of accountability and integrity 
displayed in this instance (among many others) makes a mockery of the 
academic publishing process. Accountability, rigor, empirical evidence, 
sound reasoning, and engaging with existing scholarship are essential 
foundations in academic publishing, and this particular article did not 
do any of that. TWQ needs to be held accountable for promoting such 

Whether or not the petition we started will encourage TWQ to retract the 
piece or not is up for debate. Ideally they should. That would send the 
message to all and sundry that shoddy scholarship, based on racist 
ideologies, has no place in academia. We were clear to state in our 
petition that we are not asking for curtailing of academic freedom 
(whatever that means anymore in the US), but holding the journal more 
accountable. This way we are not enabling this author to gas-light us 
and get away with click-bait. We are not engaging with him directly as 
he wants. We felt that the petition to TWQ and the publisher that 
produces it would demonstrate that we’re engaging the journal itself in 
order to improve overall scholarship and publishing processes and 
standards in academia itself. If in the process they do retract 
the article, then that author and his supporters will have hopefully 
learnt a lesson. This will put a dent in his dossier, however small. In 
the process of all this, it’ll also raise awareness that scholars and 
journals are responsible and can be held accountable.

This particular article has caused a lot of stir among various 
disciplines, groups, and organizations in the last few days. Many folks 
are writing letters of complaint to the journal about the piece, calling 
for a retraction and an apology (as which we have done). Even more are 
tweeting about it [If you’d like to see some of the tweet thread on 
this, here’s one example among many circulating now that contains info 
on this author’s other alt-right pieces, etc.: 

Personally, I do not want to give any more oxygen directly to this 
racist fascist author who has written for alt-right websites and 
published reprehensible material in the past (his piece justifying 
ethnic cleansing was also published by TWQ and it should have generated 
pushback then but it did not — I think that emboldened both the author 
and the journal). We will not be able to change the mind of this man or 
racist his allies. I also worry about the hundreds of students who take 
his courses, and wonder what they have learnt. I doubt his university 
will take any steps to hold him accountable (it seems that 
US universities only fire professors if they call out injustices and not 
the other way around), so while many people have left this man, his 
department, his university voicemails and messages, I highly doubt 
anything will come of it in terms of reprimands. What we can do is put 
pressure on TWQ and other journals who enable this kind of behavior to 
count as ‘ cholarship' to desist from doing so any further. In my 
opinion, not doing that is a disservice to all of us for all the labor 
we put into our own publications and scholarship.

If anyone is interested, my blog post that inspired the petition is 
here: https://www.facebook.com/farhanasultana/posts/10101130697230492 
<https://www.facebook.com/farhanasultana/posts/10101130697230492>  I 
  have been requested by many scholars to turn this into some sort of 
‘proper’ publication or contribution to the Chronicle of Higher 
Education, which I may do in the future, as otherwise it will ‘not 
count’ (again, a feature of our horrible metric-based system where other 
forms of labor go invisible and unrecognizable — but that’s another 
topic of discussion) :)

Thank you for your support. Please feel free to forward this email on to 
other lists and people who may be interested. Thank you.

In solidarity,

Bejoy K Thomas, PhD
Fellow (Associate Professor level)
Centre for Environment and Development
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE)
Royal Enclave, Srirampura, Jakkur Post
Bangalore, 560064, India
Website: http://www.atree.org/bejoy_thomas
Email: bejoy.thomas at atree.org
Phone: +91 80 23635555
Fax: +91 80 23530070
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