Open Letter to the Trustees of Black Umbrella (Marjorie Allthorpe-Guyton, René Gimpel, Paul Goodwin, Joanna Mackle, Lord Bhikhu Parekh and Ziauddin Sardar)

POSTED ON: December 5, 2012 IN Speeches & Statements, Word View

Third Text Advisory Council Members, 5 December 2012

With this letter we announce our collective resignation from the Third Text Advisory Council.

With the full sadness of a long look back, we take our leave from a journal that has occupied a vital place in our critical lives and, for many of us, our artistic and intellectual formation. We do not leave gladly, but we are bound to accept that Third Text, under its current Trusteeship and editorial leadership, is no longer the journal we knew and loved.

By a series of unilateral actions, missteps, and a refusal of the spirit of consultation, current leadership has transformed Third Text from a committed and catalytic forum for critical postcolonial reflection to one more domesticated instance of neoliberal standardization. We are well aware of the funding pressures and administrative arguments that can be summoned to justify your actions and decisions. Indeed we are too well aware of them, since they have become the dominant norm in too many fields today. We are not, however, bound to accept or endorse them. We expect more than bureaucratic logic from those who would be the leaders of this journal, with its origins in anti-racial struggle and its two-decade history of critical commitments.

Taking into account all that has occurred and has come to light in the last two years, documented comprehensively in Jean Fisher’s report of 15 October 2012, and considering above all what you could and should have done to resolve the crisis of confidence that surrounds the journal, we find that your ‘final offer’ to Rasheed Araeen, dated November 2012, falls too short by far. In our letter of 13 August 2012, signed by a strong majority of the Advisory Council and some hundred Third Text associates, contributors and supporters, we made clear the conditions for an acceptable solution: having precipitated this crisis by your unilateral actions, the onus was on you to restore dignity to Rasheed’s role and reputation and to return his experience and editorial judgment to the journal, thereby reassuring us that its historical vision and integrity is being protected.

The steps by which you could have done so were outlined in Jean Fisher’s report. Rejecting them, your invocation of your legal obligations dresses up a mere assertion of control. Your overriding concern, as you repeatedly emphasize, has been to keep Routledge Taylor & Francis and Arts Council England happy. We are unconvinced by these self-exonerations. There was no communication with the Advisory Council regarding the situation at Third Text or the decisions you subsequently took; furthermore, the Trustees Board has acted unilaterally in what has been, over the last year, a major editorial reorientation of the journal – away from political and intellectual integrity and in the direction of an apolitical academic careerism bereft of that critical perspective for which Third Text historically stood.

With this transformation, we want nothing more to do. Kindly remove our names from the Third Text masthead and website without delay.

Third Text Advisory Council Members:

Rustom Bharucha International Research Centre, Berlin, Germany

Guy Brett Honorary Professor, University of the Arts, London, UK

Denis Ekpo University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Geeta Kapur art critic and curator, New Delhi, India

Tabish Khair Aarhus University, Denmark

José-Carlos Mariátegui Editor, Tercer Texto, Lima, Peru

Gerardo Mosquera Havana, Cuba

Laura Mulvey Birkbeck, University of London

Benita Parry University of Warwick, UK

Howardena Pindell Stony Brook University, New York, USA

Mario Pissarra, Africa South Art Initiative, Cape Town, South Africa

Gene Ray Berlin, Germany, and Geneva University of Art and Design, Switzerland

John Roberts University of Wolverhampton, UK

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Columbia University, New York, USA

Julian Stallabrass Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

Victor Tupitsyn Professor Emeritus, Pace University, New York, USA

Stephen Wright European School of Visual Arts, Paris, France

Slavoj Zizek Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London, UK, and University of Ljubljana, Slovenia


Editor’s note: Only three members of the advisory council have not resigned.