[WSMDiscuss] Fwd: Petition to TWQ

Subramanya Sastry sastry at cs.wisc.edu
Thu Sep 14 19:23:55 CEST 2017

WTF is a more appropriate exclamation! I mean: is this academic for 
real? Or is this trolling gone berserk?  -Subbu.

On 09/14/2017 11:44 AM, Ashish Kothari via WSM-Discuss wrote:
> Astounding ...
> ashish
> -------- 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, India
> 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.
> Thanks.
> Bejoy.
> -- -- --
> /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: 
> https://www.change.org/p/editors-of-the-third-world-quarterly-retract-the-case-for-colonialism?recruiter=409526319&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_petition
> 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 practices.
> 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.: 
> https://twitter.com/Farhana_H2O/status/907440614144462848].
> 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,
> Farhana
> -- 
> 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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