[Urbanstudy] Fwd: FW: Petition regarding racist click-bait article in Third World Quarterly

Gaurav Mittal mittal.archie at gmail.com
Wed Sep 13 21:56:20 CDT 2017

Dear friends,

Some of you might already know about it either through your mailing lists
or social media feeds but I thought it is worth bringing to your attention.
I cannot believe that such rubbish article could be published in a
respectable journal like the Third World Quarterly, which a number of us
use for our own research and learning. I encourage you to read the email
below explaining the case and sign the petition (https://www.change.org/p/
petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_petition) that will be
handed to the journal this Friday.

I understand, some of the journals’ own advisory board members and
editorial board members have already spoken up about this on Facebook and
Twitter that they were not aware of this article and have called for the
editor to retract it, provide and explanation and apology, with the
stipulation that they would quit the positions otherwise.

[Please do not search for the paper or view the paper on the journal’s site
in order to NOT increase the view counts or download metrics of the paper
in question; you can read it for free at http://fooddeserts.org/



Begin forwarded message:

*From: *Farhana Sultana <farhana at JONOSC.COM>

*Subject: Petition on academic publishing standards*

*Date: *14 September 2017 at 02:10:09 SGT


*Reply-To: *AAG Economic Geography Speciality Group <

*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.

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/

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  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 Sultana, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Geography

Research Director for Environmental Conflicts and Collaborations, Program
for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC)

Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
Syracuse University
144 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, NY, 13244, USA

Email: sultanaf at syr.edu
Web: www.farhanasultana.com
Web: http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/faculty/sultana.aspx
ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Farhana_Sultana
Twitter: @Farhana_H2O


Eating, Drinking: Surviving http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319424675

The Right to Water: Politics, Governance and Social Struggles https://www.


Important: This email is confidential and may be privileged. If you are not
the intended recipient, please delete it and notify us immediately; you
should not copy or use it for any purpose, nor disclose its contents to any
other person. Thank you.

*Gaurav Mittal*
*President's Graduate Fellow*
*Department of Geography*
*National University of Singapore*

Email: gauravmittal at u.nus.edu | Mobile: +65 85806744 | Skype: ar.mittal |
Twitter: @ar_gauravmittal
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