I was struck by a story in this morning’s Star about a recent article published the Third World Quarterly, a scholarly journal devoted to… well… the study of the third world. The offending article, by Bruce Gilley, a Portland State Political Scientist, is titled “The Case for Colonialism” and makes the arguments, among others, that Western Colonialism was “both objectively beneficial and subjectively legitimate in most of the places where it was found”. Furthermore, he criticizes the long-line of anti-colonial scholarship which, in his view, provides a distorted and politically motivated assessment of the merits (or lack thereof) of colonialism. Now his main point about the merits of colonialism is contestable, and I’m not sure I would subscribe to that thesis on balance, though I can’t contest his claim that colonialism had benefits as well as costs. His secondary point, that anti-colonial scholarship is distorted and politically motivated… well… read on.
To read the reaction, you’d think he’d fed a puppy into a tree shredder live on the internet. It’s worth reading Gilley’s piece before considering the response, if only to fully understand how unbalanced it is.