Engaging Southern Theory: Decolonizing Territories of Thought in Urban Geography

Authors: Susmita Rishi*, University of Washington, Amy Piedalue, Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: global South, Urban Geography, Postcolonial Theory, Feminism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Balcony M, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, we draw upon our separate projects in New Delhi and Hyderabad to examine the potential for employing “southern theory” as mode of decolonizing territories of thought in urban geography. Responding to the provocations of subaltern urbanism and relational poverty theory (Roy 2011, 2015; Roy and Crane 2016; Elwood et al 2016), we explore geographic imaginations of the north/south binary as a barrier to decolonization (within and beyond the academy). We redefine the global south beyond its current narrow locational definition to a more relational understanding of north and south. We base this analysis in our argument (Piedalue and Rishi, forthcoming) for greater recognition of significance of postcolonial feminism as a set of interventions that challenge the ontological supremacy of ‘northern theory,’ encoded through white possession (Moreton-Robinson 2017) and white property regimes (Keenan 2017), as well as the inherent colonial logics of modern liberalism (Abu-Lughod 2013; Lowe 2015). In this discussion, we focus on: (1) a critical conceptualization of ‘southern theory’ that works to unsettle given meanings of “the south”; (2) valuing and learning from long-standing traditions and current theorizing that seed this approach (including: postcolonial and critical race feminisms, Indigenous ontologies, ethnic and critical race studies); and finally, (3) the implications of ‘engaging southern theory’ for our scholarly praxis: as researchers, teachers and professional academics. Elaborating the latter, we employ our experiences as teachers and researchers to discuss the challenges (and radical possibilities) of contributing to the decolonization of geographic knowledge through a turn to southern theory.

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