A noticeable Cambridge University academic has once again become unprotected to scrutiny after claiming that referring to a Black academic as ‘eloquent’ or ‘articulate’ is dismissive.
Professor Priyamvada Gopal, who lectures at Churchill College, made the comments after fellow Cambridge University professor David Abulafia described Professor David Olusoga as “eloquent” in a Telegraph article.
Prof Abulafia, a fellow at Gonville and Caius, discussed the trial of the protesters who toppled a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol in the newspaper, writing: “The jury was not being asked to estimate Colston, already though the defence thought it appropriate to call the eloquent David Olusoga as a observe and to ask him to describe Colston’s career.”
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After sharing the article to Twitter, Prof Gopal wrote: “Calling writers/scholars/intellectuals of colour ‘eloquent’ or ‘articulate’ – e.g Abulafia on Olusoga- can quite often be a little sleight of hand dismissal – ‘yeah yeah yeah, you talk a good game, people are gonna like it, but you’re just whipping up passions, no substance’.”
“It’s presented as an injustice because the person using the adjective believes that they are speaking the truth but nobody is listening because the other chap is talking a fine game which is ever so unfair.”
She additional: “Most people who call me ‘articulate’ with a little wry smile are not fans of what I’m truly saying. So it’s not a compliment always.”
Prof Abulafia, who wrote the article headlined ‘Nothing is holy to the woke statue topplers’ reportedly told student publication Varsity that he found Prof Gopal’s comments “insulting and possibly libellous”. He did not respond to a request for further comment.
Prof Olusoga, who is a public history professor at Manchester University, has also not responded to a request for comment and does not appear to have weighed in on the argue which has played out in the national media.
Speaking to CambridgeshireLive about the attention her comments have received online and in the press, Prof Gopal said: “This is a typical example of manufacturing a fake culture war battle and I wish to take no part in it. Libel, of course, must be suitably addressed by the law.”
She has also criticised the reaction to her comments on Twitter, pointing out that she did not directly accuse Prof Abulafia of racism despite this being widely reported.
Prof Gopal has become a frequent subject of media scrutiny in recent years who has received death threats over comments made on Twitter. She also caused a stir by accusing staff at Cambridge University of racism.
Cambridge University did not respond to a request for comment.
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