Even in the world of academia, a punchy headline can be everything.
As subaltern analysis heads from the margins to the center of critical discourse, the kind of post-colonialism that was previously centered on a college campus has been popularized across the left. Within a popular culture shifting to decolonization ideas, someone at the Third World Quarterly likely knew a title like “The Case for Colonialism” was going to gain some traction. The paper, penned by controversial Portland State University faculty member Bruce Gilley, argued that Western colonial expansion into the Global South, specifically Africa, was a net positive, and that the 20th century liberation struggles were a catastrophe that should be reversed. Ignoring the mountains of scholarship that outlines the brutal cruelty of colonial exploitation, slavery and genocide, Gilley has taken an avenue that is popular amongst the academic segment of the radical right: transvaluation. With a mind towards defending white settler colonialism, Gilley did not deny the tragedies, he just decided they were worth it.
While it was shocking to many that a respected Routledge-published journal like Third World Quarterly would publish something so bizarrely angled, there is a precedent for this type of academic literature. While the academy is often viewed as the vanguard of intellectual leftism (a claim that has some merit), this perception hides the fact that far-right — and often openly fascist — political actors also have found a place in the classroom.
In the wake of World War II, and the advancements in the physical and social sciences, the idea of race as a meaningful category had not only been largely abolished, but the cruel consequences of racial pseudo-science were undeniable….