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Global South: A Colloquium

“Global South: A Colloquium” – presented by the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, November 16-19, 2016
University of Virginia

November 16, 2016

Keynote Speakers

“Afro-Atlantic Genealogies of the Global South”
Laurent Dubois (History and Romance Studies, Duke University)
Wednesday, November 16, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Nau Hall 101

Plenary Panel: “Southern Theory”
Juan Obarrio (Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University)

Sarah Nuttall (Literary and Cultural Studies, University of the Witwatersrand)

Moderated by Ian Baucom (Buckner W. Clay Dean of Arts & Sciences, University of Virginia)

Thursday, November 17, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Nau Hall 101

“Poetry, the Global South, and the Migration of Form”
Jahan Ramazani (University of Virginia)
Friday, November 18, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m.
New Cabell Hall 236

“Where Next? The Global South Out West,” Tsitsi Jaji (English, Duke University)
Saturday, November 19, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
New Cabell Hall 236

Historically, the idea of the ‘Global South’ can be traced to the Brandt Report of 1980, which posited a divide between countries of the North and South according to technological development, GDP, and standard of living. A cultural genealogy of the term stretches back even further to the 1955 Africa-Asia Conference in Bandung, Indonesia, which inaugurated ‘Third World’ collaborations, decolonization movements, and heralded a sustained engagement with the postcolonial as an historical epoch.

Notwithstanding these specific genealogies, ‘Global South’ today appears as an unsettled and unsettling frame from which to contemplate the world. Some think of it as a post-Cold War era replacement for the ‘Third World’ (and so primarily covering Africa, Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, but not Europe, America and the Mediterranean worlds), while others use it synonymously with the idea of underdevelopment and deprivation wherever these are found. Yet others see it as a ‘frontier in the unfolding history of neoliberal capitalism’ and a window from which to grasp the conditions of intelligibility of our global present: historical, cultural, aesthetic, political, environmental, biomedical and technological. The antinomy with the more privileged Global North persists both in the domain of political economy and in culturalist perceptions of a decolonial reinvention and invigoration of non-Western lifeworlds.

As will be obvious from the above, the idea of the ‘Global South’ has varied inflections across the disciplines. An economist’s understanding of it does not converge with that of a historian or a literary scholar or even that of a media specialist. At the same time, the paradigmatic force of the term is not in doubt, one that makes intelligible larger constellations of meaning beyond the specific historicity of its origins in a postcolonial and post-Cold War world. The Global South currently exists at the confluence of and tension between systems of knowledge and ways of conceptualizing space, habitations, cultures, aesthetics and political economy. Our colloquium will explore the many dimensions of this concept – philosophical, historical, political, spatial and aesthetic – as they inform contemporary scholarship.

Source: “Global South: A Colloquium” – presented by the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures, November 16-19, 2016 | IHGC

A Punkspat: The Geo-politics of the New South Ripple

Rev. Dr. William Barber and Kane from the Sacrificial Poets

Rev. Dr. William Barber and Kane from the Sacrificial Poets

The South in our discussion mainly relates to lands in the southern hemisphere but at the same time they are influenced by theories from the Global South. I however wonder if we should include the important influence from the American deep south, after all the oppressed peoples in those States are mainly suffering from the intergenerational trauma of their ancestors being torn from the South. Nor can we exclude the pervasive influence of the Civil Rights movement on the political thought of the South. To designate the American South as only belonging to the Northern political theory sphere, I would argue is a misrepresentation of the peoples. Rather it is a reflection of the experience of the South caught in the borders of the North. And we must remember much of the movement was influenced by Ghandi. So it was perhaps one of the most famous South South theoretical transfers.

So I would suggest that we also consider the political activities in the Deep South in the Moral Monday rallies which are lead by the charismatic black reverend William Barber and are slowly but surely gaining momentum across North Carolina. The important element in this demonstration is the use of the word ‘moral’ in an era of blatant gluttony by the 1% of the global population. I would suggest that the most pressing issue is a moral issue in which we must consider the future of the young and not leave behind a pre French Revolutionary lifestyle of social division in which up to 90% of the population were peasants.  But most importantly in relation to that era we must remember that five years before the revolution the Icelandic volcano caused havoc that bought about famine and refugees. The impact unravelled Europe and caused revolution that spread to the Americas.  Once again we are seeing the aftermath of an Icelandic eruption of 2010/11 followed by austerity measures.  We still don’t really know the continuing environmental and economic impact of that eruption, but Europe does seem to be on the verge of something. However, we must also remember how many people from The South are caught up within those borders as refugees and their voices must not be dismissed in our discussions due to their geo-positioning.

I would also like to develop this point of geo-positioning. This may seem like popularism by some, but as Naomi Kline argues, it is up to social commentators to realize that leadership and social protest is no longer the way it used to be. ‘Bring me your leader’ is for the old boys. Even major Venture Capitalists such as Julie Meyer are trying to educate the Goliath industries that the – top down ‘big stick’ – approaches are ineffective, if they want to harness innovation which is born of the internet generation. We must remember the Goliaths were not born of the internet but came to it late in life and are therefore not hardwired to the intellectual and ‘savvy’ way of operating in an networked business landscape. A disadvantage as we have seen with the US intelligence industry. It may be able to put us all in a surveillance cage but there are a lot of up and coming keyhole pickers with a moral conscience out there and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this up and coming generation of cyberpunks who actually care.

So our understanding of the South, on one hand, may need to take into account the ‘domestic south’ in influential countries like the US. And on the other the surveillance cage we are all in now. As Assange warned this is the last ‘free generation’ before the surveillance becomes all pervasive. And as Julie Meyer recommends we need to consider the new types of social contracts we want before technology leads us into unchartered waters.

If anything there is a dissolving of the hemispheres in the internet generation which sees itself more laterally and borderless including those without access who appear to use the mobile phone in a similar way. Life is beyond physical borders or maps and instead we may be seeing the rise of generations that relate to their local space with a global perspective, rather than a hemisphere dominated and nation bound mentality of the 1%. The 1% goliaths may have power for now, but it is slowly with the help of Nature and her unpredictable behaviour moving the other way and perhaps this is the very reason surveillance has become global because that is actually were we are heading or have arrived.

However, we also have another geo political dilemma in that the BRICS nations are made up of countries that consider themselves as part of the Global South, and they are the new Goliaths of the planet in search of riches just as much as the Westerner, but perhaps a bit more politically savvy in the way they do it. So my contribution at the beginning of this discussion relates to geo-positioning and the rising moral protests coming out of The New South of the USA and its ripple effect across the domestic South within the BRICS nations.

Having said all that however, I do think there is something deeper going on which relates to land, for you find that in the Southern hemisphere the South is the place of privilege, in that they are more developed e.g. South Africa, Chile, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand as against say Senegal, Bolivia or Vanuatu.  Whilst in the Northern hemisphere it is the North which is less privileged e.g. the Arctic Circle, Siberia, the Far North of Canada. Therefore which way do our theories flow, which way will they ripple out?

Photo source: Justin Valas on Flicker for noncommercial reuse

‘Here from Elsewhere’–settler-colonialism with a southern horizon

James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, Kate Darian-Smith

James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, Kate Darian-Smith

Here from Elsewhere was the final in this year’s Southern Perspectives series at the IPCS. The series began with Raewyn Connell’s outline of ‘southern theory’ as a counter-hegemonic argument against the concentration of knowledge in the metropolitan centres. It set the scene for speculative propositions about forms of knowledge particular to the periphery, which included developments in indigenous theory, tidalectics and humid thinking.

One of the obvious points of connection between countries of the south lies in the settler-colonial experience. But recent developments in settler-colonial studies disturb the comfortable opposition between centre and periphery, north and south. The Imperial/Settler binary is counterbalanced by the Settler/Indigenous divide. While it might seem possible for those who cast themselves as ‘southern’ to join in solidarity against the metropolitan centres, there remains the historical conditions that continue to split these nations along colonial lines.

New Zealand historian James Belich (Victoria University, Wellington) began by outlining the argument in his recent book Replenishing the Earth. He articulated the three phrases of Anglo settlerism: incremental, explosive and re-colonisation. In the discussion that followed, Belich’s concept of the ‘re-colonisation’ was seen as implying that the flow of influence from Britain had ebbed before it was re-kindled.

Specialist in settler colonialism Lorenzo Veracini (Swinburne University, Melbourne) provided an analytic account of the distinction between colonialism and settlerism. He argued that settlerism was a distinctly southern phenomenon, emerging from the periphery. The discussion questioned the qualitative difference in relations with indigenous between colonial and setter. Veracini gestured the difference as one between the colonist addressing the indigenous with ‘You, work for me!’ (colonial), or ‘You, go away!’ (settler).

Historian Kate Darian-Smith (University of Melbourne) reflected on her own research, particularly in the circulation of objects related to reconciliation around the Pacific rim. In discussing the significance of objects such as the brass gorgets, Darian-Smith pointed to the active ways in which settlers proceeded to make their claims on the new land. She also implied a gender dimension in analysis of settlerism.

The following discussion continued the spirited contestation and defence of the settler-colonial paradigms that were presented. In terms of ‘southern perspectives’, it raised some important questions:

  • What is the substantial difference between the settler-colonialism experienced in Australasia and that of the United States?
  • What is the prognosis for the condition of settler-colonialism? Is it an original sin beyond redemption?

Clearly, the notion of a southern perspective must critique the manufactured forms of solidarity that elide the violence of colonisation. Settler colonial studies provides a powerful argument to expose facile alliances.

But settler-colonial studies also provides a powerful enabler of south-south dialogue by exposing exceptionalism as a common condition. In the case of Australia, the concept of the ‘great southern land’ encourages the narrative of a lucky country with singular promise. Through the settler lens, we see the way other countries create parallel forms of exceptionalism, particularly from the booster narratives of explosive colonisation. This applies not just to Anglo cousins, but across the latitude to Latin America and southern Africa.

So the challenge now awaits to use this platform as a way of journeying out beyond the familiar forums into south-south conversations. This notion of south is not the ground we stand on, but the horizon towards which we can gaze.

Mexico and China – another North in disguise?



Chinese President Hu Jintao (2nd L) holds talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa (4th R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, July 11, 2008.



Fans of the Chinese and Mexican national teams root for their teams during a soccer match between Mexico and China at Qwest Field.

Romer Alejandro Cornejo Bustamante is Professor of El Colegio de Mexico specialising on China from a Latin American perspective.

1. Can you briefly describe your research

Tengo dos proyectos de investigación, uno es sobre las relaciones entre China y América Latina, con especial énfasis en México, y el otro es sobre los cambios en el sistema político de China.

I have two research projects, one is on the relations between China and Latin America, especially Mexico and the other is on changes in the political system of China.

2. For Mexico, how does the relation to China differ from that towards USA?

Difieren mucho, primero en términos de percepciones, en México ha existido un movimiento racista anti chino en el pasado y aún quedan reminiscencias de ello. Se conoce muy poco sobre China y en todo caso se asumen las posturas que predominan en la prensa internacional. El racismo ha revivido ante una relación comercial  extremadamente deficitaria para México, en muchos sectores hay una percepción de amenaza. En el caso de Estados Unidos la situación es contraria, predomina una gran admiración por el vecino del norte. Gran parte de la elite política y económica ha estudiado, vivido o tiene inversiones en Estados Unidos. Se acepta sin muchos reparos su calidad de potencia mundial. En el pasado la construcción del nacionalismo tenía, entre otros elementos, el anti Estados Unidos, pero esa construcción por muchas razones se ha esfumado.  La relación económica es muy estrecha y con excedente para México.

They differ widely, first in terms of perceptions. In Mexico there was a racist anti-Chinese movement in the past and there are still vestiges of it. Very little is known about China and we mostly take the position prevailing in the international press. Racism has been revived since the extreme commercial deficit in Mexico; in many areas there is a perceived threat. In the United States the situation is contrary, where there is a great admiration for the neighbor to the north. Much of the political and economic elite has studied, lived or has investments in United States. It is accepted without much hesitation as a world power. In the past, the construction of nationalism had, among other things, been anti-US, but for many reasons that focus has vanished. The economic relationship with the US is very close and with a surplus for Mexico.

3. Do you see particular concepts that emerge from Mexican thought that have
relevance beyond Mexico?

No. Por lo menos no en las ciencias sociales, éstas son una calca de las de Estados Unidos y Europa, aún en los estudios subalternos. Tal vez en la creación literaria y artística haya creaciones de relevancia, muy probablemente en lo que concierne a la cultura de frontera, a la asociación entre cultos religiosos y actividades fuera de la ley, en la cultura de las bandas delictivas.

No. At least not in the social sciences, they are a replica of the US and Europe, even in subaltern studies. Perhaps in literary and artistic creations there is relevance, most probably in terms of border culture, the association between religious worship and activities outside the law, in the culture of gangs.

4. What do you think is the usefulness of ‘south’ as framework for
intellectual dialogue?

Creo que es extremadamente útil. Por ejemplo en el trabajo que actualmente hago sobre la relación entre China y América Latina, el diálogo con mis colegas es sumamente difícil pues en su mayoría tienen una perspectiva desde el “norte” con respecto a China, concebida ésta como un “sur” irracional, incapaz, poco creíble y amenazante porque lo ven como un “sur” empoderado. Desde mi perspectiva, China es “norte” venido a menos y en proceso de reivindicación. Esa perspectiva me facilita mucho la comprensión de las decisiones de la elite de ese país. Además la perspectiva del “sur” me remite a planteamientos filosóficos y antropológicos en la explicación de la conducta humana individual y políticamente. Recomiendo repensar algunas cosas a partir de esta película  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250258/

I think it is extremely useful. For example, in the work we do today on the relationship between China and Latin America, the dialogue with my colleagues is extremely difficult because most have a view from the “north” with respect to China. They conceive it as a “southern” – irrational, incapable, not very credible and threatening because they see it as a “south” power. From my perspective, China is “north” fallen on hard times and in the process of reclaiming its place. That perspective gives me much understanding of the decisions of the elite of that country. Besides, the prospect of the “south” to me refers to philosophical and anthropological approaches to the explanation of human behavior individually and politically. I recommend to rethink some things from this movie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250258/