Category Archives: News

Editorial Statement | Decolonising Design

A new network has emerged out of the discipline of design research to further the goal of southern thinking in how we create and manage our worlds.

We welcome all of those who work silently and surely on the edges and outskirts of the discipline to join and contribute to conversations that question and critique the politics of design practice today, where we can discuss strategies and tactics through which to engage with more mainstream discourse, and where we can collectively postulate alternatives and reformulations of contemporary practice.

Source: Editorial Statement | Decolonising Design

New book series ‘Decoloniality’

In fall 2015, we created a new book series on Decoloniality, which was supported with conference panels and mini-conferences in 2015 and 2016.

We want to take this opportunity to invite book proposals from this community by officially announcing the launch of this new book series DECOLONIAL OPTIONS FOR THE SOCIAL SCIENCES. Information about the series, which is published with Lexington/Rowman, can be found at our web-site, which will also increasingly be used to publish additional content:

More than being just an ‘emerging paradigm’, decoloniality is a troubling and troubled conversation that does more than just cross the boundaries of disciplines, geo-polities, time frames, cultures, and identities. Interrogating the acts and gestures of crossing borders as events that simultaneously also make borders, decolonial perspectives have opened the possibility for border thinking and border existences that challenge the social sciences at their core.
The book series seeks proposals that consider in all aspects the gesture of sociological delinking from the coloniality of power, being, knowledge and life itself. All contributions should aim to consider themselves as interventions to answer this challenge: “Projects aimed at ‘ decoloniality ,’ understood as the simultaneous and continuous processes of transformation and creation, the construction of radically distinct social imaginaries, conditions, and relations of power, knowledge.” Our main aim with series is to consider, discuss, and develop ideas and questions that represent an epistemic de-linking that challenges sociology.

A SERIES EDITED BY : Alexander I. Stingl (IAM FAU Erlangen – Nürnberg), Oyeronke Oyewumi (Stony Brook), Nicholas Rowland (Penn State), and Sabrina M. Weiss (RIT)

The series is co-supervised by an editorial advisory board, comprised of both well-established senior researchers and promising junior scholars from all over globe.

Alexander Stingl serves as corresponding editor and can be reach via email at [email protected]

On the dangers of ‘reverse essentialism’

While Southern Theory continues to grow, there is a danger that it develops insulated from critique. There is the risk that its political mission focuses exclusively on distinguishing a separate form of knowledge from the dominant north, repeating the kind of denial of southern roots prevalent in the North.  

A recent article by Gregor McLennan from University of Bristol offers a critical appreciation of Southern Theory:

Sociology is often pitched as the social science discipline most obviously in need of postcolonial deconstruction, owing to its ostensibly more transparent Eurocentrism as a formation. For this reason, even postcolonial scholars working within the ambit of sociology are reluctant to play up its analytical strengths in addition to exposing its ideological deficits. Without underestimating the profound impact of the growing body of postcolonial theorizing and research on self-reflexivity within sociology, this paper points up some key ways in which the structure of comprehension within postcolonial critique itself is characteristically sociological. Alternatively, if that latter conclusion is to remain in dispute, a number of core epistemological and socio-theoretical problems must be accepted as being, still, radically unresolved. Consequently, a more dialectical grasp of sociology’s role within this domain of enquiry and style of intellectual politics is needed. I develop these considerations by critically engaging with three recent currents of postcolonial critique – Raewyn Connell’s advocacy of “Southern Theory”; the project of “reinventing social emancipation” articulated by Boaventura de Sousa Santos; and the “de-colonial option” fronted by Walter D. Mignolo.

He cites Santos’ caution against a simplistic North-South binary:

[Santos’] accepts that the register of South versus North, East versus West is a metaphorical one that, while effective as a ‘‘defamiliarizing’’ tactic, runs the risk of a sloppy reverse essentialism in which Europe and its traditions are treated as a ‘‘monolithic entity’’.

We are left with a challenging question. If we accept that the North-South division is indeed a generalisation, then what is its remaining meaning? It is possible to lay a similar charge with many oppositions, such as male-female, human-nature and capital-labour. The criticism doesn’t invalidate the opposition, but does caution against an essentialist reading of geopolitics. The opposition needs to be understood as a ongoing construction that is critically relevant to cultural trajectories, rather than something that occurs automatically when we cross the equator.


Gregor McLennan (2013), Postcolonial Critique: The Necessity of Sociology, in Julian Go (ed.) Postcolonial Sociology (Political Power and Social Theory, Volume 24), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.119-144

Warning: Questions Ahead! Southern dialogues at the beginning of 2013

Southern dialogues are developing strongly at this moment in time, though only to highlight the significant challenges ahead.

The colloquium Diálogo Trans-Pacífico y Sur-Sur: Perspectivas Alternativas a la Cultura y Pensamiento Eurocéntrico y Noroccidental took place on 8-9 January, as part of the grand scale Congreso Interdisciplinario at University of Santiago, Chile. Latin America has been the home of particularly active southern thinking, inspired often by its indigenous cultures. The ‘south’ as a rallying call has been significant given the tangible counter-influence of the United States, to the immediate north.

The Santiago colloquium witnessed a change away from this previously combative north-south argument. The principal perspectives were from Chile, México and Argentina. Much discussion was given to the emerging relations with Asia, specifically China. Alongside this was the growing influence of Brazil across Latin America, reflected in the large number present for the parent congress. In the past, these south-south relations would have been flavoured by a solidarity against USA as the common hegemon. But now there is increasing recognition of a diversity of interests across the south, and the need to reflect this in a conversation which is not reduced to catching up with the North.

One tangible contribution of the colloquium was the title. The word ‘noroccidental’ literally means ‘north-western’. This refers more generally to Western culture in the North, rather than the top left corner of the globe. Such a term accepts that there is a Western culture in the South as well, particularly in countries like South Africa, Australia and Chile. But it differentiates itself from other northern countries, such as Russia and China.

Other emerging terms are ‘Euro-American’ and ‘trans-Atlantic’. The problem with these is that it uses the generic term to represent only one half—North America. ‘Euro-American’ does not include Latin America, nor does ‘trans-Atlantic’ feature exchanges with Africa. The challenge is to find an English equivalent of ‘noroccidental’. Would ‘north-Occidental’ do?

The plenary concluded with a call for a more global understanding of South, reflecting such developments as population flows through the North and the relational identity of North and South.

The challenge is to extend this dialogue beyond Latin America to engage with forums elsewhere in the South. There is much activity in South Africa at the moment around the book by Jean & John L. Comaroff, Theory from the South: Or, how Euro-America is Evolving Toward Africa, including the recent critical responses in Johannesburg Salon. In Australia, there is continuing reference to Raewyn Connell’s Southern Theory, as well as Indigenous Studies broadly taking on global themes.

The relative lack of connection between these dialogues is, of course, reflective of the condition of the South itself, as a series of spokes connected with each other only via a central hub in the North. Language is an added challenge. The convenor of the Congreso Interdisciplinario Eduardo Devés has developed his own perspective on the Southern condition through ‘periphery theory’, outlined in his publication Pensamiento Periférico, which is freely available in Spanish. The potential reduction of South to the condition of periphery is an important challenge to the broader historical narratives that it carries. To what extent the issues normally identified with South be characterised by the condition of distance from the centre? Such a perspective puts the historical conditions such as settler-colonialism into question.

Though the distances between the southern countries themselves should be identical to those separating northern countries, the ‘hub & spokes’ model works in a very practical way to mitigate against south-south travel. Many academics from outside Chile had to cancel their involvement in the colloquium due to higher than expected air fares. This is obviously compounded by smaller travel budgets for academic staff in southern universities.

The view looking out of University of Santiago, flanked by Allende and Guevara

The view looking out of University of Santiago, flanked by Allende and Guevara

Nevertheless, the University of Santiago is taking a lead in fostering south-south dialogue. In late October 2013, they will initiate an annual forum/workshop to ‘go full circle’ on the Pacific, looking at how a trans-Pacific exchange might be configured to include Latin America. The Asia Pacific is usually conceived as a domain exclusive to Australasia, East Asia and North America. But as with the APEC forum, the south-east arc of Latin America should be an integral part of that. ‘Full circle’ provides a focus on the Pacific as a space for multilateral relations. What would be the intellectual underpinning of this?

The time seems ripe for a major conference on these various strands of southern thinking. Given its position, hosting an international conference would seem one tangible contribution that Australia could make to this emerging paradigm. Alternatively, if it were to be held in a northern university, this paradox of having to go North to talk about South would provide sufficient material for a conference in itself.

One question that tangibly brings the condition of southern thinking home concerns the north-south asymmetry of the academic world. In particular, if someone had the prospect of an academic position in Europe or North America, would there be any value in remaining in a less well-endowed southern university?

Meanwhile, while waiting for such an event to emerge, four Australian academics have generous offered a summary of their work accompanied by a generative question:

As the Zapatistas would say, inspired by Mayan mythology, ‘walking we ask questions’. Thankfully, the path stretches out ahead.

Southpaw launch–a new literary journal

South Paw Order Form



You are invited to the launch of a new literary journal
Southpaw: writing from the global south

To be launched by
Professor Stephen Knight
Wednesday 14th December
Arena Project Space
2 Kerr Street Fitzroy
6.30 pm


All welcome

Southpaw # 1 features writing from and about Australia, Africa, China, Philippines, South America and the Pacific around the theme of displacement. It includes essays on the idea of South, power shifts in East Arnhem Land, change and development in Philippines, UFOS in South America and displacement in Colombia fiction and creative non-fiction from Angola, Australia, China, New Zealand, South Africa and Suriname; reviews of Tamil pulp fiction, Indigenous graphic novels and documentaries from the Pacific. There’s an Ainu fable re-told, a radio play and poetry from many places in the global South, much of it in new translation.

Further information: 9416 0232 or 0418 304 500.

Globalisation from scratch–where is south?

French curator and writer Nicolas Bourriaud presents his concept of the altermodern as the 21st century ‘frontier’.

There are many who would contest the Western-centric view of modernism, yet do not subscribe to the idea that it has an ‘other side’ in the South. Nicolas Bourriaud, author of Relational Aesthetics, presents the idea of a ‘globalisation from scratch’, which is a flat symmetrical world where all peoples have equal access to the global electronic stage. Thus one of the critiques of a ‘southern perspective’ is that it is beholden to a cold-war mentality the divides the world neatly into west and ‘the rest’. Bourriaud presents a context that is not complicated that by this past and celebrates plurality.

So from a ‘southern perspective’, there are questions of such an approach. While celebrating plurality, its product as a curated exhibition is still concentric. This plurality is still inevitably concentrated in the art galleries of metropolitan centres.

And like its precursor ‘relational aesthetics’, altermodernity depends on an immanence that is liberated in free play. Such deferral of necessity and tradition is subject to the Bourdieu’s critique of aestheticisation in Distinction. It becomes a marker of class which has garnered the necessary surplus capital to rise above political squabbling over resources.

These are familiar criticisms of Bourriaud, but there is a danger that they position ‘southern perspectives’ as a voice of resentment, rather than an active site for engagement of ideas. At the least, there should be a possibility of dialectic between north and south, whereby each exposes the other’s limits. But for this to happen requires an acknowledgement that the world is divided, albeit messily.