Engaging Southern Theory: Challenging Hierarchies of Knowledge & Place II

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Evergreen, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Organizers: Susmita Rishi, Amy Piedalue
Chairs: Amy Piedalue


In the last decade, critical scholars across the social sciences have renewed critiques of geographic hierarchies of knowledge production, and issued a variety of calls for a reexamination of power that questions “the territory of thought itself” (Roy and Crane, 2015). Several such provocations aim to unsettle geographic imaginations of ‘the global south,’ and particularly to divest from the presumption that ‘the south’ produces only raw data and never theory (Roy & Crane 2015; Roy 2016; Comaroff & Comaroff 2012; Connell 2007). This session aims to extend this call for deeper engagement with ‘theory from the south,’ while simultaneously dislodging fixed geographic notions of ‘north and south’, ‘east and west’. This requires “… a departure from the usual business of intellectual extraction, whereby colonized places and peoples become objectified sources of ‘raw data’. We suggest instead that our imperial present and the histories it calls forth might be better interrogated through [a re-positioning of ‘south’ that] draws attention to power and inequality (rather than reproducing colonial geographic hierarchies of ‘civility’ or modernity). As such, ‘southern theory’ must be charted not onto the colonial maps we’ve inherited, but rather through a process of counter-mapping that values the insights and theories that emerge from positions of struggle and marginality” (Piedalue & Rishi, forthcoming). In this way, ‘southern theory’ might better centralize the operation of power through and in knowledge regimes by instead “view[ing] ‘south’ as a flexible and mobile marker that draws our gaze to the operation of imperial power, manifest in complex inequalities articulated at local and global scales” (Piedalue & Rishi, forthcoming).

In this discussion session, we seek to open a conversation that showcases forms of ‘southern theory,’ which build such theoretical interventions through grounded empirical research and examples. We also recognize and emphasize the importance of learning from theory/knowledge-making that already enacts such a critical ‘southern theory’ approach, including by rejecting white settler, colonial, and imperial geographic imaginaries - such as theoretical interventions made by postcolonial, decolonial and critical race feminisms and/or through centering Indigenous ontologies (i.e. Smith, L.T. 2012; Sandoval 2000; Mohanty 2003; McKitttrick 2006; McKittrick and Woods 2007; Hunt 2013, 2014; Abu-Lughod 2013; Goeman 2013; Lowe 2015; Moreton-Robinson 2015; Mollett 2013, 2017). We envision this conversation to take place in two parts, first as a traditional paper session, then followed by a discussion session. We are interested in empirically-rich research that engages with existing bodies of theory and knowledge produced in ‘the south’, or draws upon feminist and action research partnerships to showcase theoretical insights emerging from commonly marginalized sites of social life, political struggle, and/or economic survival.

Abu-Lughod, Lila. 2013. Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Comaroff, Jean, and John L. Comaroff. 2012. Theory from the South: Or, How Euro-America Is Evolving toward Africa. Boulder, Colo.: Paradigm Publishers.
Connell, Raewyn. 2007. Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
Goeman, Mishuana. 2013. Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations. Minneapolis: Univ Of Minnesota Press.
Hunt, Sarah. 2013. “Decolonizing Sex Work: Developing an Intersectional Indigenous Approach.” In Selling Sex: Experience, Advocacy, and Research on Sex Work in Canada, edited by Emily Van der Meulen, Elya M Durisin, and Victoria Love.
Hunt, Sarah. 2014. “Ontologies of Indigeneity: The Politics of Embodying a Concept.” Cultural Geographies 21 (1): 27–32.
Lowe, Lisa. 2015. The Intimacies of Four Continents. Durham: Duke University Press Books.
McKittrick, Katherine. 2006. Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
McKittrick, Katherine, and Clyde Adrian Woods. 2007. Black Geographies and the Politics of Place. Toronto, Ont.; Cambridge, Mass.: Between the Lines; South End Press.
Mohanty, Chandra Talpade. 2003. Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Durham; London: Duke University Press.
Mollett, Sharlene. 2013. “Mapping Deception: The Politics of Mapping Miskito and Garifuna Space in Honduras.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 103 (5):1227–1241.
________. 2017. “Irreconcilable Differences? A Postcolonial Intersectional Reading of Gender, Development and Human Rights in Latin America.” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 24 (1):1–17.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen. 2015. The White Possessive: Property, Power, and Indigenous Sovereignty. Indigenous Americas. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
Raju, Saraswati. 2006. “Production of Knowledge: Looking for ‘Theory’ in ‘Familiar’ Places?” Geoforum, 155.
Roy, Ananya. 2016. “Who’s Afraid of Postcolonial Theory?” International Journal of Urban & Regional Research 40 (1): 200–209.
Roy, Ananya, and Emma Shaw Crane. 2015. Territories of Poverty Rethinking North and South. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
Sandoval, Chela. 2000. Methodology of the Oppressed. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. 2012. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2nd edition. New York: Zed Books.


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Rachel Berney University of Washington 20
Panelist Rajyashree Reddy University of Toronto 20
Panelist Mariana Cruz Universidade Federal De Minas Gerais 15
Panelist Jennifer Tucker University of New Mexico 15
Panelist Aparna Parikh Pennsylvania State University 15
Panelist Danielle Rivera University of Colorado, Boulder 15

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