• Portland State University
    Portland State University
  • Racial prejudice
    Racial prejudice
    White power / KKK
    White power / KKK
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Prof. Gilley became the subject of controversy when, in September 2017, he published an article entitled “The Case for Colonialism.” In it Gilley argues, for example, that “for the last 100 years, Western colonialism has had a bad name. It is high time to question this orthodoxy.” According to Gilley, suffering under colonialism is merely “a liberal fabrication,” and the idea of resurrecting it is “not so preposterous as the anti-colonial ideology that for the past 100 years has been haunting the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the Third World.”[1] Gilley insisted that “the countries that embraced their colonial inheritance, by and large, did better than those that spurned it.”

A petition to the article’s publisher accused Gilley “of colonial disdain for indigenous peoples… with the predictably racist conclusion.” The petition went on to lament the threat of radicalized white supremacist groups who would be emboldened by Gilley’s words, fearing the “material consequences for those who Prof Gilley seeks to dominate and objectify.”[2] Prof. Farhana Sultana, one of the organizers of the petition against Gilley, accused his article of being, “historically inaccurate, lacking in empirical evidence, not engaging with the abundance academic scholarship on the topic, poorly written, conceptually weak, cherry-picks issues/topics, mischaracterizes scholarly work, poor cited and reproduces falsehoods.”[3]

Additionally, Prof. Gilley established a professional advisory board for a program-specific scholarship to students that “was mostly composed of white men from the business community.” When confronted about this issue by a student, Gilley responded that “recruiting people other than straight white males to the board would be tokenistic.”[4]

[1] Prado, E. (Sept. 14, 2017). Portland State Professor Comes Under Fire After Advocating For Colonialism. Remezcla. Retrieved from http://remezcla.com/culture/bruce-gilley-colonization/

[2] Lusher, A. (Oct. 12, 2017). Professor’s ‘bring back colonialism’ call sparks fury and academic freedom debate. Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/colonialism-academic-article-bruce-gilley-threats-violence-published-withdrawn-third-world-quarterly-a7996371.html

[3] Flaherty, C. (Sept. 19, 2017). Is Retraction the New Rebuttal? Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/09/19/controversy-over-paper-favor-colonialism-sparks-calls-retraction

[4] Prado, E. (Sept. 14, 2017)

Associated Organizations:

Journal of Democracy (editorial board member); Journal of Contemporary China (editorial board member)

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Departmental Contact

Christopher Shortell, Chair of the Political Science Department

Contact email



  • The Nature of Asian Politics (2014)
  • The Right to Rule: How States Win and Lose Legitimacy (2009)

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