In the contemporary world of high-speed communication technologies and porous national borders, empire building has shifted from colonizing territories to colonizing knowledge. Hence the question of whose voices, experiences and theories are reflected in discourse is more important now than ever before. Yet the global production of knowledge in the social sciences is, like the distribution of wealth, income and power, structurally skewed towards the global North. This collection seeks to initiate the task of closing that gap by opening discursive spaces that bridge current global divides and inequities in the production of knowledge. This chapter provides an overview of criminologies of the global periphery and introduces readers to the diverse contributions on and from the global South that challenge how we think and do criminology and justice.
The postmodernist epistemological challenge to ‘the Enlightenment’ — its attack on master narratives and its critique of truth — also loses its liberatory aura when transposed outside the elite intellectual strata of Europe and North America. Consider, for example, civil war in El Salvador, or the similar institutions that have been established in the post-dictatorial and post-authoritarian regimes of Latin America and South Africa. In the context of state terror and mystification, clinging to the primacy of the concept of truth can be a powerful and necessary form of resistance.
(Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri Empire Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001, p. 155)
The Epistemologies of the South symposium was held at Sydney University on 14 April. It received an extraordinary response. Some of the sessions were standing room only.
The event was convened by Raewyn Connell and Fran Collyerto bring together of scholars in the social sciences interested in the status of knowledge production in the South. The morning included brief presentations from Maggie Walter, Vera Mackie, Helen Gardner, Devleena Ghosh and myself. We also heard from those involved in the Arenas of Knowledge project (João Maia, Robert Morrell, Vanessa Watson, Patrick Brownlee and Beck Pearse), a collaboration between Brazil, South Africa and Australia to map social science publishing in the South.
The rest of the day involved group sessions and plenaries where experiences of working in the South were shared. “Speaking bitter thoughts” was encouraged as a way of understanding the experience of working in the university environment, particularly for indigenous peoples (this reflected the People’s Tribunal in Melbourne).
There were many interesting discussions about the knowledge terrain of the South. The universal nature of English in scholarly publishing was seen by many as inevitable, but it was felt that there should be more allowance for the difficulty faced by second-language speakers and for concepts that were not easily translated. The economic challenge for poorer Southern countries of subscribing to scholarly journals was also mentioned. While there are Open Source alternatives for publication, the unpaid labour in maintaining these needs recognition as part of academic work.
More generally, there was broad discussion about the overall framework of knowledge production. The accepted capitalist model of knowledge accumulation through data extraction and publication output was questioned. This seemed to leave little time to reflect on what is learnt. It also does not accommodate indigenous practices, which focus more on the reproduction of knowledge as a form of stewardship. Reflecting the work of Unaisi Nabobo Baba on silence, there was discussion about the importance of listening as a scholarly modality. Overall, there was a feeling that knowledge in a southern context should involve a quality of slowness that engages with the social relations at play.
Raewyn Connell felt the event had fulfilled its aims:
I was very pleased at the way the national symposium brought together different generations of scholars, and people working in different traditions of knowledge and thought. Good discussions went on right through the day, and I’m hopeful that many links have been made that will energise this major re-thinking of social knowledge.
Critically, the symposium resolved to establish a mailing list so that the participants can organise future events that will continue these conversations. It will be interesting to see how these conversations develop. The academic machine offers a ready-made system for accumulating knowledge in professional journals. How might an archive of southern knowledge be designed?
Researchers from Queensland University of Technology have recently applied a southern perspective to the administration of justice.
Issues of vital criminological research and policy significance abound in the global South, with important implications for South/North relations and for global security and justice. Having a theoretical framework capable of appreciating the significance of this global dynamic will contribute to criminology being able to better understand the challenges of the present and the future. We employ southern theory in a reflexive (and not a reductive) way to elucidate the power relations embedded in the hierarchal production of criminological knowledge that privileges theories, assumptions and methods based largely on empirical specificities of the global North. Our purpose is not to dismiss the conceptual and empirical advances in criminology, but to more usefully de-colonize and democratize the toolbox of available criminological concepts, theories and methods. As a way of illustrating how southern criminology might usefully contribute to better informed responses to global justice and security, this article examines three distinct projects that could be developed under such a rubric. These include, firstly, certain forms and patterns of crime specific to the global periphery; secondly, the distinctive patterns of gender and crime in the global south shaped by diverse cultural, social, religious and political factors and lastly the distinctive historical and contemporary penalities of the global south and their historical links with colonialism and empire building.
Source: Southern Criminology
From McKinnon, Katheran. 2013. “A Different Kind of Difference: Knowledge, Politics and Being Antipodean.” Dialogues in Human Geography: Commentary.
“Perhaps an ‘Antipodean’ identification is a way of capturing, valuing and placing at the centre the deliberate effort to look at the world from the ‘underside’.
Source: A different kind of difference
Raewyn Connell exits official academic life with a powerful message. But, she will continue to be active in the growing network of sociology in the South.
Brazilian sociologist Marcelo Rosa has published an important critique of social theory (download), comparing the approaches of Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Jean and John Comaroff and Raewyn Connell. Though he singles out Connell as an approach that allows for alternative southern voices, he concludes from their differing uses of theories an inconsistency in the notion of ‘southern theory’. In reference to the French sociologists Boltanski and Chiapello, he describes this use of south as a ‘circumstantial project’. As such, Rosa is vulnerable to the same critique he has levelled at others in marginalising southern perspectives by contrast to northern theory. Diversity of approaches does not necessarily imply contradictions in the field. They can indicate a dynamic argument that is activating an alternative field of inquiry.
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.
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
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.
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:
- Christine Black: Who are your moral heroes?
- Raewyn Connell: How to prioritise the intellectual work of the global South?
- Shaun McVeigh: How to move with honour between laws of the South?
- Lorenzo Veracini: What is the role of geography in sociopolitics?
As the Zapatistas would say, inspired by Mayan mythology, ‘walking we ask questions’. Thankfully, the path stretches out ahead.
The symposium South-South Dialogue: Alternative Perspectives to Western Culture and Thought will be held as part of the Third International Congress Sciences, Technologies and Cultures: A Dialogue Among The Disciplines of Knowledge, 7-10 January 2013, at University of Santiago of Chile (Usach). For more information, see link: www.internacionaldelconocimiento.org.
In recent years, perspectives have emerged that contest the universal status of Western knowledge. Post-colonial thinking has recently been joined by new alternative paradigms, including Peripheral Thought, Southern Theory, Indigenous Studies and Decolonialism. Each posits the possibility of a knowledge that is particular to the South. This provides a basis for a south-south dialogue about alternatives or critiques of Western knowledge, involving researchers and intellectuals from non-Western regions (Latin America, Oceania, Africa and Asia).
Common questions emerge:
- Is Western thought to be superseded by these new paradigms?
- What are themes that are shared in common across the South?
- Is the goal of knowledge for its own sake specific to the West?
- How can we implement an ecological approach to knowledge?
- Is knowledge relative to the location from where it emerges?
This symposium welcomes contributions to the evolution of critical approaches to Western thought. This includes reflections on colonisation, independence movements, notion of ‘Third World’ and ‘Developing Countries’, ‘Global South’ and neo-liberalism. As well as critiques of the West, this symposium aims to foster constructive alternatives that reflect the values of participating countries.
The abstract must be sent to e-mails of coordinators with following specifications:
- Deadline: 30 June 30th 2012
- Length: 200 words maximum
- Academic or professional status (PhD, Master, professor, field of professional activity, etc.)
- Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The paper must be sent to coordinators´ e-mails with following specifications:
- Deadline: 31 August 2012
- Length: 15 pages (Times New Roman, size 12, double spacing).
- Academics and professionals from research organizations: 95US$
- Post graduate Students (Master or PhD): 70 US$
- Undergraduate Students: 30 US$
- Participants without presentation: 30US$
- Graciela Arroyo, National University of Mexico, email@example.com
- Kevin Murray. RMIT University, [email protected]
- Germán Alburquerque. University of Santiago of Chile, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Claudio Coloma. University of Santiago of Chile, email@example.com