What if the global South is not where we think it is? Unsettling colonial geographies of knowing.

Authors: Susmita Rishi*, Kansas State University, Amy Danielle Piedalue, Australia India Institute, University of Melbourne
Topics: Geographic Theory, Urban Geography
Keywords: southern theory, southern feminism, feminist theory, global south, critical theory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, we seek to unsettle colonial geographies of knowing, which continue to underpin an imagination of the ‘global south’ as a fixed geography of places and peoples, marked by an association with an incomplete modernity (as compared to the ‘west’ or ‘north’). Taking up Roy and Crane’s call “to see from the South” by “rethink[ing] the territory of thought itself” (2015, 16), we draw upon the insights of postcolonial feminist theory to instead suggest an orientation toward “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 and Rishi 2017, 555). We draw together theories emergent from southern spaces in India and the U.S. to argue that these critical analyses of power, inequality, and justice ought to inform not only work on ‘southern urbanisms’, ‘global cities’ or ‘development’, but also urban and political geography understood through and applied to the ‘global north’. Focusing in on questions of value in space and gender justice, we demonstrate that subaltern actors in Delhi, Hyderabad, and Seattle rework these concepts through forms of everyday politics that forge new spaces for being political, and simply for being. We insist that learning from these forms of world-making requires recognizing their distinct epistemological contributions as forms of theory, and not merely as sets of data to be run through the mill of ‘universal’ critical theory from the ‘north’.

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