The Global South as Subversive Practice: Challenges and Potentials of a Heuristic Concept — Sinah Theres Kloß
- 1 – It argues that the “Global South,” when not simplistically referred to in terms of geography, has great potential to consolidate and empower the various social actors that consider themselves to be in subaltern(ized) positionalities of global networks of power. The Global South is not an entity that exists per se but has to be understood as something that is created, imagined, invented, maintained, and recreated by the ever-changing and never fixed status positions of social actors and institutions. For the context of knowledge production in academic institutions, the idea of the Global South may be embraced as a process or practice through which new modes of knowledge production are created and learned and more balanced relationships in the global system of knowledge production are achieved.
- 5 – Amaryll Chanady states that “critics outside the West sometimes see postcolonial theory as yet another paradigm imported from hegemonic centers of knowledge production that marginalizes local knowledges in a new avatar of epistemic violence”
- What to do?
- 7 – The Global South is thus not an entity that exists per se and is waiting to be identified, but has to be understood as something that is created, imagined, invented, maintained, and recreated “in the struggle and conflicts between imperial global domination and emancipatory and decolonial forces that do not acquiesce with global designs” (Levander and Mignolo 2011, 3).
- 8 – In line with these elaborations and definitions, I propose to nuance the idea of the Global South as a process that reflects, highlights, and potentially transforms dominant and subalternized positionalities. The Global South should be understood as a process and practice, created and influenced by the ever-changing and never fixed status positions of persons and institutions. In the context of academic institutions, we may want to embrace the idea of the Global South as a process or practice through which new modes of knowledge production are created and established modes of reproducing inequalities, “epistemicide” (Sousa Santos 2014), and “epistemic racism” (Mignolo 2015, xv) are unlearned. I thus propose to consider the idea of the Global South as an active practice that restructures global networks of power. The Global South may even be considered as a practice that facilitates liminality—a liminal space of transition in which a phase of anti-structure enables the re-organization of, for example, social and epistemological power relations, and which creates a new model of social, economic, and political interactions that relies on egalitarian principles. As academic scholarship is part of the construction of the Global South, inasmuch as it is constructed by social movements, we should consider the Global South as a “normative conceptualization” with which we actively question our solidarities as well as our modes of reading, translating, writing, quoting, and publishing (Demir, this issue). To understand the relevance of the Global South as transitional practice in global knowledge production, it is necessary to briefly outline what has already been discussed as epistemicide.
- Let’s talk about this
- 10 – The subversive practice of indigenization, instead of fostering nativism or reverse orientalism, of which it has been accused (Alatas 1993; Abaza and Stauth 2016; Amīn 2010; Mazrui 2005), emphasizes the cultural and contextual specificity of theories, concepts, and methodologies.
- His remarks indicated an unconscious, linear idea of knowledge production, an understanding that I have encountered in several other discussions and that is not a notable exception. According to such statements, US and Anglophone discourse are regarded as “the latest” and most “up-to-date,” hence “leading” in global knowledge production, with other scholars “following behind” or possibly even remaining in lower states of a supposed global, universal enlightenment—an understanding reminiscent of developmentalist discourse.
- How does this help us connect this special issue to the shock of the old. Can we apply Edgerton’s anti-innovation-centric approach, that is, a use-based approach, to knowledge in addition to technology and science? Does it get funkier for knowledge about science and technology
- 14 – In order to avoid becoming complicit in using the Global South as a label and means to maintain dominance in global networks of (academic) power, it is first necessary especially for scholars to refrain from its convenient, simplified use as a geographical metaphor or as a substitute for “Third World” or “Developing Countries.” Instead, the Global South should be considered a political consciousness, an engaged and possibly liminal practice through which global unequal power structures are actively restructured.
Between Promise and Skepticism: The Global South and Our Role as Engaged Intellectuals – Nina Schneider
- 18 – I argue that it is vital to distinguish between the vocabulary’s desired outcomes and its likely real effects. If our goal is to change the world (and not just parrot a utopian buzzword), we may need to elaborate precise conceptualizations and reflect upon their concrete—not just imagined—consequences. It is precisely the Global South concept’s Janus-faced nature that has led to its success; while we cannot fully endorse it given its danger of abuse, we can neither completely abandon it given its interventionist potential.
- The concept’s ambiguity, in this view, is conceived of as something positive. Its utopian charme, promise of remedy, and felt openness for different interpretations (useful ambiguity) is being celebrated. The concept’s polysemantics, however, come at a price: a problematic interpretation of the Global South might continue circulating and in the worst case become dominant.
- Polysemy as virtue, polysemy as risk
- 24 – Second, the geographical reading omits the striking divisions along class, race, gender, and regional lines within these “Southern” countries.
- Sometimes we need gross terms — umbrella categories — for communicative convenience. We use them with the full acknowledgement of their inability to accurately describe all of the contents of that container. The fact that there are meaningful differences between bananas and tomatoes does not call into question the usefulness of the word “fruit”.
- 31 – To demonstrate the difference between utopian category and lived transformation, I here discuss the dangers of the Global South concept in more depth and evaluate its potential to function as a category that may structure our thought rather than elucidate, let alone transform, our historical reality
- 32 – Hence the “colonization of reality” is a general problem of any Global South concept that is vague, imprecise, and simplifies a more complex socio-political reality (including the “global subaltern” or metaphorical/relational readings).
- Don’t all words “simplify a more complex (socio-political) reality — aren’t the complex reality they represent supposed to be contained in their definitions, that is, their references, not in the referents themselves?
- 33 – Initially, I was going to argue that our task would be double-fold: deconstructing discriminatory uses of the term and offering a precise definition. I was going to suggest that it is indispensable to provide a clear definition of the term, to denounce the concept’s abuse (to interrogate the entrepreneurship of those invoking the concept), and to clearly spell out one’s own intentions when using the term. Yet, having reread the Global South with Escobar’s critical eyes, I doubt that this will solve the problem. Even a precise definition (if one is at all possible) does not solve the very problems underlying the term—the geographical implications and its function to structure our thought
- 35 – Although admittedly not the ideal solution either, let me illustrate the transformative power of language with a conceivably less Euro-centric alternative to the Global South, used by intellectuals and particularly activists: “the majority of the world” (Butler 2008, 542) or “Majority World” (McEwan 2009, 14).
South by Chance: Southern Questions on the Global South – Roberto Dainotto
- 39 – this essay considers the Global South as a possible commonplace where European Marxism and global post-colonial and de-colonial movements may meet.
- 43 – The consequences were disastrous. Each alternative to the social order has remained isolated from the other—metonymically discontinuous: race from gender; colony from metropole; a critique of capitalism from a critique of colonialism. No coherent subject has emerged, no agent, but several ones, each marginalized in the logic of divide et impera, each with a different perspective in an infinite “parallax view” (Žižek 2006).
The Global South as Foreignization: The Case of the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe – Ipek Demir
- 54 – In this paper I examine the “Global South in the North” by taking the Kurdish diaspora living in European metropoles as a case study and conceptualizing the Kurdish movement as a transnational indigenous movement. I argue that through the foreignizations diasporas bring, the Global South is making claims not only in the North but also on the North. By focusing on the role of diasporas and the Middle East, areas which have received little attention within Global South scholarship, I seek to complicate and thus enrich our understandings of the Global South.
- 55 – The epistemological interventions of Global South literature have thus sought to show how traditional Euro-centric ways of knowing have created epistemic violence against others (Mignolo 2011; Santos 2014) while simultaneously creating a narrowly bounded European history and an inadequate understanding of modernity and of today (Bhambra 1997; Chakrabarty 2000).
- Critics of Global South scholarship often repeat the claim that the South is a blanket term and that countries and groups referred to as the South are differentiated between themselves and within themselves, refusing to fit any easy generalizations or categorizations. The same could of course be said about the notions of “West” or even of “Europe”: states and peoples within these categories are also differentiated between and within themselves, resisting easy categorizations and geographical distinctions—yet Northern epistemologies hardly bring that to the table.
- 59 – The work of Sousa Santos seeks to denounce Northern models of production of knowledge due to its refusal to enter into a horizontal dialogue with other knowledges. Presenting the South as an alternative form of knowledge production, he underlines the “epistemicide” which these cultures face as well as the “learned ignorance” which the North perpetuates (2009). He instead defends an “ecology of knowledge” whereby Northern and Southern modes of understanding enter into a non-hierarchical dialogue and, in Venuti’s terms, foreignize each other.
- 60 – I argue that they collectively call for Northern epistemologies to “give into” the Global South and to foreignize.
The Global South at the UN: Using International Politics to Re-Vision the Global – Dena Freeman
- 71 – This article argues that the countries of the Global South have defined themselves in a globally-positioned way since the 1960s— long before the current wave of neoliberal globalization or academic thinking about the “Global South.” This is shown by tracing the history of the formation of the Global South as a political bloc as the Group of 77 (G77) and in their aspirations and negotiations at the United Nations. The article explores how the G77 acts in the global political system, as well as how it tries to act on the global political system in order to produce a particular vision of the global.
Defending Liberalism in the Global South: Notes from Duterte’s Philippines – Lisandro E. Claudio
- 92 – Beginning with a theoretical engagement with illiberal scholarship, this essay argues that much of this literature has reduced liberalism’s history into clichés about its homogenizing tendencies and its associations with contemporary neoliberalism. Ending with a discussion of the Philippines under the populist authoritarian, Rodrigo Duterte, illustrates the need for a renewed liberalism in the Global South.
- 94 – For many of these thinkers, liberalism represents what the Global South is not; it is a common enemy that unites the diverse experiences of formerly colonized peoples.1 One might even contend that, without liberalism as a common antithesis, there can be no Global South. Yet I hope to show that the South must be considered not only a space of opposition to liberalism but one where liberalism may be rethought anew.
- 104 – To put things in blunt and moralistic terms: my president is slaughtering my countrymen by the thousands, justifying the murders by dismissing liberalism and human rights as “Western.” I do not have the luxury of “problematizing” human rights as symptomatic of the era of “neoliberalism.” Scholars should be careful of the illiberalism they wish for in the Global North, because we in the Global South just might get it in the form of a bloodthirsty autocrat.