Cambridge dons in woke war after one accused the other of being offensive for describing mixed race Colston academic as ‘eloquent’
Two Cambridge University professors are locked in a woke war over whether calling a mixed race Colston expert ‘eloquent’ is offensive.
Priyamvada Gopal accused David Abulafia of being dismissive for using the word about history professor David Olusoga, whose father was Nigerian.
She claimed using the words eloquent or articulate for ‘intellectuals of colour’ could be seen as a sleight of hand dismissal. She said it implied the person was ‘just whipping up passions’ and had no substance.
Priyamvada Gopal accused David Abulafia of being dismissive for using the word ‘eloquent’ about history professor David Olusoga, whose father was Nigerian
Prof David Abulafia, pictured, wrote an article in the Daily Telegrpah where he said Prof Olusoga was ‘eloquent’ but denied there were any racial implications
Prof David Olusoga, pictured, gave evidence in the trial of the Colston Four where he outlined the slave trader’s career which was used by the defence to justify their clients actions
In response, Professor Abulafia labelled her ‘utterly bizarre’, accusing her of twisting everyday language. He denied his words were offensive and said both white and black people could be equally described as eloquent without racial implications.
The row erupted after Professor Abulafia, a history don, wrote an article for the Daily Telegraph about the trial of activists who toppled the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol.
He argued that pulling down the statue did not ‘aid historical understanding’ and that the activists should not be deciding its fate. He added as an aside: ‘The jury was not being asked to judge Colston, even though the defence thought it appropriate to call the eloquent David Olusoga as a witness and to ask him to describe Colston’s career.’
Professor Gopal, who teaches postcolonial literature, seized on the article and posted it on Twitter. This was seemingly in response to a tweet from another academic who claimed that ‘the writings of academics that champion bigotry’ would not ‘pass an intro class’.
Professor Gopal tweeted the article, saying: ‘Few undergrads produce work this weak after the first week or so.’
Professor Abulafia hit back in an interview with student newspaper Varsity, calling her comments ‘insulting or potentially libellous’.
The former chairman of the history faculty said: ‘I have never heard the use of the word eloquent being linked to racism. David Olusoga has a marvellous ability to communicate, I admire that enormously. The word eloquent is the perfect word to use.’
Professor Abulafia, 72, was born in London to a Jewish family and spent most of his career at Cambridge, specialising in Mediterranean history.
Professor Gopal, 54, has spoken about having family roots in India and is vocal on Twitter about race. In October, she was stopped from delivering a lecture in Whitehall because of remarks she made about Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The Daily Mail has tried to contact Professor Gopal, Professor Olusoga and Cambridge University for comment.