Category Archives: Sociology

Southern Theory – picking up the gauntlet

Raewyn Connell’s book Southern Theory has attracted a great deal of attention in the field of sociology. As an example of the use of ‘South’ within a particular discipline of knowledge, it is worth reflecting on the responses. It has won awards and been the subject of many conference sessions, but it has also engendered some interesting critical responses.

Kerry Carrington Journal of Sociology 2008; 44; 301

Carrington welcomes Connell’s book, but faults it for a perceived sense of pessimism about change, alleging a debt to Gramsci’s concept of hegemony. But the review also reveals problems in the way the concept of South is received. Despite the broad concept of South to include countries of the Global South such as India, Carrington reduces it to a question of hemisphere:

Southern Theory provides the next generation of social scientists from societies of the southern hemisphere the intellectual foundation to break with the self-deprecating dynamic of replicating he globalizing social science produced in the northern hemisphere.

Crain Soudien and Carlos Alberto Torre British Journal of Sociology of Education 2008; 29, Issue 6; 719-725

Soudien and Alberto are quite fulsome in their praise.They describe the text as ‘profoundly generative’ and claim that ‘Southern Theory is a key text for the period in which we are living.’ Within their own South African context, they use Connell’s text to highlight the neglected work of Ben Kies. They claim that his 1953 lecture ‘The Contribution of the Non-European Peoples to World Civilisation’ is now worth revisiting.

Saïd Amir Arjomand ‘Southern Theory: an Illusion’ European Journal of Sociology 2008; 49; 546-549

Arjomand’s review is the most critical. He takes Connell to task for claiming a commonality between heterogeneous forms of knowledge emerging from Africa, Middle East, South Asia and Latin America. He argues that such a commonality cannot exist without a shared community of scholars. In the end, he defers to a single global community of sociology to pursue these questions. Nonetheless, he does acknowledge the contribution of Southern Theory towards a more representative discipline.

The creation of this new republic of social knowledge could be the work of generations, and one would need to integrate Northern and Southern theory. Our concern should not be with the ethnic identity and geographical location of social scientists and public intellectuals, but with comparisons of the concepts used to understand the phenomena and developmental patterns of the metropolitan and peripheral regions of the world. And we would need an enormous growth in the institutional infrastructure for the production of social knowledge in the global South. Along this long road ahead, Southern Theory should be considered the first milestone.

Catrin Lundström Acta Sociologica 2009; 52; 85

Lundström’s review is positive, though laced with various concerns. She does question the position of the author herself, as the synoptic point of view that can made the connections between disparate voices, who themselves are caught in their own concerns. This challenge awaits alternative ‘southern theories’ emerging from the countries that Connell looks to. Despite the focus in Southern Theory on gender, Lundström makes the point that the theorists it includes are almost all men. And she sees a risk that the North/South division too easily inherits the previous division of First/Third World.

Robin Peace New Zealand Geographer 2009; 65 Issue 1, 84-85

While Peace makes certain criticisms:

  • too much focus on sociology rather than other social sciences
  • missing some important women scholars
  • lack of reference to the renaissance of indigenous knowledge in Aotearoa/New Zealand

…she recognises the difference it makes:

It stimulated me to recognize the elisions and gaps in the knowledge that I take for granted, and to think differently about the global constructions of sociological knowledge… It places ‘southern’ names on the ‘northern’ lectern…names that embody rich insight and people who make strong knowledge claims but whose voices are most often a whisper, an echo or a silence in contemporary social science…a challenging and necessary book. 

Nathan Hollier Australian Journal of Political Science 2008; 43 Issue 2, 368-9

Southern Theory is a breakthrough book – for Raewyn Connell and for Australian and international social science… This text could also be seen as the latest step in her career-long attempt to identify the social, political and intellectual conditions in which a genuine, that is, genuinely democratic, dialogue might take place. Southern Theory should revolutionise understandings of the history, function and proper practice of social theory.

Responses to Southern Theory include not only formal reviews. Where do you put a book like that? In the Carlton bookshop Readings it was placed in the Indigenous section, rather than Theory. At the University of Melbourne library, it is given the keyword ‘Social sciences – Southern Hemisphere’, for which it is the only entry. Will there come a time when ‘Southern’ can become a subject heading, like ‘Western civilization’?



Generally, the reviews reflect a positive welcome for Southern Theory to the discipline of sociology. But there are issues to be dealt with. There is the question of balance, particularly in gender. But perhaps most challenging is the question of how ‘southern theory’ is to constitute itself as a field of discourse, so that it engages the very voices its seeks to ‘uncover’. That’s not just a challenge for Raewyn Connell, but for her readers as well.

Finally, as Lena Rodriquez from University of Newcastle remarks on the book’s Amazon page, Raewyn Connell ‘throws down the gauntlet.’

Raewyn Connell ‘Thinking South: Re-Locating Australian Intellectual Culture’ 18 March 2010

The first seminar in the Southern Perspectives series at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies features Raewyn Connell, author of Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Her book has proven to be a significant and highly controversial intervention into sociology and related disciplines.She has spoken about Southern Theory in academic forums around the world. This is a rare opportunity to address the questions raised by this book at a public forum in Melbourne.

This is the outline of her talk:

Modern Australia was formed by colonial invasion, dispossession of indigenous people, dependent development, and social struggles – framed in turn by the British Empire, the American hegemony, and neo-liberal globalization.  Australian intellectual culture, formed to a large extent around universities whose institutional ideology emphasises a placeless modernism, has had difficulty in locating itself securely.  A tension has long existed, for intellectuals of the settler population, between intellectual extraversion (in Hountondji’s sense) at the price of dependence, and a resistant nationalism that acknowledges place at the price of marginality.  One path beyond this is engagement with the legacy of colonialism and the situation of Australia’s indigenous people now; another is engagement with the structures of world inequality, exploring connections around the global South.  In this session I will sketch our place in a global political economy of knowledge; discuss the intellectual wealth of the periphery; and assess responses by Australian intellectuals to the difficulties and possibilities of our location in the world.

Raewyn Connell is University Professor at University of Sydney. See interview.

Event details

Raewyn Connell ‘Thinking South: Re-Locating Australian Intellectual Culture’
Thursday 18 March 2010, 7-8:30pm
Institute of Postcolonial Studies
78-80 Curzon Street
North Melbourne (map)
Tel: 03 9329 6381
Admission – $5 for waged, $3 for unwaged, and free for members

Sociology goes south

Last Wednesday, 2 December, at the annual conference of the Australian Sociological Association (TASA), there was a plenary titled ‘Southern Perspectives’. Speakers included Raewyn Connell, Chilla Bulbeck, Margaret Jolly and Peter Beilharz. They considered the following questions:

  • Is there a ‘southern sociology’?
  • What kind of sociology do we teach and research in Australia? 
  • Should southern theory inform the future of sociology – in Australia and elsewhere?

The plenary attracted around one hundred and by all accounts a very lively discussion ensued.

Thoughts on ‘Siútico’ by Oscar Contardo

OSCAR 6586 BN alta

OSCAR 6586 BN alta

Oscar Contardo

Chile has a lively publishing industry that produces serious non-fiction on cultural themes, often Latin American, particularly Chilean. Given the issues of language and subject, these works are rarely read outside Latin America. The leading art theorist Ticio Escobar, for instance, is hardly translated into English at all.



Sometimes there are books that are both uniquely Chilean but potentially also universal in their particularity, at least to fellow countries of the colonised South. Oscar Contardo’s Siútico: Arribismo, abajismo y vida social en Chile (Santiago: Vergara, 2008) seems at first inscrutable. The title itself is a word only found in Chile. The other words are hard to find in English – ‘upism’, ‘lowism’? Yet its analysis of the way a colonial class attempts to distinguish itself from the upwardly mobile, first by elitism and then by a kind of poverty chic, has compelling parallels to the social dynamics in other colonial cultures.

¿Puedes explicar lo que la palabra ‘siútico’ significa?

“Siútico” es un chilenismo de origen oscuro y etimología incierta. Apareció a mediados del siglo XIX como un adjetivo burlón para señalar personas —sobre todo varones— que pretendían ser tomados por elegantes sin pertenecer a la clase alta chilena. Es una palabra cuyo sinónimo más cercano en castellano es “cursi” o “arribista”, pero que por el hecho de ser chilena encierra matices propios de nuestra sociedad. Chile en el siglo XIX era una sociedad agraria, socialmente muy rígida en donde las riquezas nuevas de los mineros del norte sacudieron las costumbres campesinas, sobrias de la elite del “valle central”. Así como la palabra expresión inglesa “snob” le debe mucho a la revolución industrial y al surgimiento de una burguesía en Inglaterra, la palabra “Siútico” en chile le debe otro tanto a los nuevos ricos de los minerales de plata descubiertos a mediados del siglo XIX y a una cierta (y pequeña) clase media burócrata.

Can you explain what the word ‘siutico’ means?

“Siútico” is a Chilenism of obscure origin and uncertain etymology. It appeared in the mid-nineteenth century as an adjective to indicate ridiculous people — especially males — who claimed to be taken by elegant without belonging to the upper class in Chile. It is a word whose synonym is closest in Castilian “cursi” or “arribista”, but due to the fact of being Chilean it contains nuances particular to out society. Chile in the nineteenth century was an agrarian society, socially very rigid, where the new wealth of miners of the north challenged the peasant habits, the sober elite of the “Valle Central”. Just as the word “snob” owes much to the industrial revolution and the emergence of a bourgeoisie in England, the word “Siútico in Chile owes as much to the new rich of minerals of silver discovered in the mid XIX and a certain (and petty) middle class bureaucrat.

Has escrito sobre el fenómeno de la abajismo. ¿Qué es esto?

El abajismo lo describo como un fenómeno que ha atravesado de distintas maneras la historia de Chile. Se trata de una expresión que describe la identificación de ciertos personajes de la elite con la vida propia del pueblo llano, de las clases medias y bajas. La historia de la izquierda chilena está salpicada de ilustres apellidos de clase alta. En su mayoría hombres (el ingreso de las mujeres al espacio público es reciente) que abrazaron la causa de los desamparados desde la política (el mismo Salvador Allende, Carlos Altamirano y otros tanto). Esto tuvo su vertiente religiosa sobre todo a partir de los 60 con sacerdores “obreros” como el padre Puga o el Padre Aldunate. Los últimos síntomas de abajismo tienen menos carga ideológica y una mayor tendencia estética: es el turismo de clase que emprenden jóvenes en antros de bariios populares. La “vida del pobre” es vista como algo interesante, “trendy”, verdadero. Hay una línea piadosa del abajismo que toma ciertas nociones del “cura obrero” pero en donde los elementos revolucionarios aparecen diluidos por el neo asistencialismo. Esto se ve mucho entre alumnos de ciertas universidades caras (no hay universidades gratuitas en Chile) que organizan trabajos de verano o jornadas de ayuda durante los fines de semana en barrios marfginales. Son una suerte de “visita a la realidad” frecuentemente auspiciadas por organizaciones católicas.

You write about the phenomenon of abajismo. What is this?

I described it as a phenomenon that has taken different paths in the story of Chile. It is a term that describes the identification of certain characters in the elite with the life of ordinary people, from middle and lower classes. The history of the Chilean left is peppered with famous names of high class. Most men (women’s entry to the public is recent) embraced the cause of the disadvantaged from politics (as Salvador Allende, Carlos Altamirano and both). There was an especially religious dimension from 60s, with priest “workers” such as the father Puga or father Aldunate. The latest symptoms of abajismo are less ideological and more inclined aesthetics: it is the young class tourists who visit the dens of popular suburbs. The “life of the poor” is seen as something “trendy”, true! There is a pious version of abajismo that takes the certain notions of “worker priest”, but where the revolutionaries are diluted by the new welfarism. This is seen widely among students of certain expensive universities (there are no free universities in Chile) who organize summer jobs or day jobs during the weekends in marginal neighbourhoods. They are a kind of “reality tour” frequently sponsored by Catholic organizations.

¿Crees que puede haber una forma válida de abajismo? Algunos ejemplos?

Sobre esta pregunta está implícito el juicio de que hay formas válidas y otras que no. La verdad a mi no me interesa entrar en ese esquema, sino en el análisis del fenómeno. Yo creo en la libertad de la gente en adherir a causas legales y en expresar sus inquietudes sociales de la mejor forma. También creo que dada la importancia del problema social en Chile (pobreza, desigualdad, discriminación) es necesario tener posturas críticas sobre el punto.

Do you think there can be a valid form of abajismo? Any examples?

On this question is the implicit view that there are valid and others not. Actually I do not interested in engaging with this proposition, but in the analysis of the phenomenon. I believe in the freedom of people to adhere to legal reasons and express their social concerns in the best way. I also believe that given the important social problem in Chile (poverty, inequality, discrimination) it is necessary to take critical positions on this matter.

Abajismo es algo único en Chile?

No, no lo creo. Se da de manera difrenete eso sí. En Latinoamérica debe haber variaciones que tienen que ver con la propia historia del país, su demografía, economía y desigualdades. Latinoamérica tiende a ser mirada como un todo sin distinción básicamente porque es “mirada” desde fuera. Es una región de sociedades que comparten muchas cosas, pero que difieren en otras tantas. Creo, sin embargo, que la desigualdad y la discriminación son dos ejes comunes que se expresan de manera distinta.

Is abajismo something unique to Chile?

No, I do not think so. But it’s style is different. In Latin America there must be changes that have to do with the history of the country, its demography, economy and inequality. Latin America tends to look uniform as a whole because it is basically seen from the outside. It is a region of societies that share many things, but they differ in others. However, I believe that inequality and discrimination are two common axes that are expressed differently.

¿Qué tiene la respuesta a Siutico sido?

El libro ha sido un éxito que no me esperaba. La crítcia lo recibió muy bien, y lleva casi un año entre los más vendidos. Mis compatriotas tienen una cierta inclinacíón por leer libros en donde puedan reconocerse, sobre todo en sus pequeñeces, odios y venganzas. Debería existir un género sobre el tema. Un apartado en las librerías que se llamara “en qué consiste ser chileno”. El rol del código secreto, el sobre entendido, la crueldad disfrazada de buen tono, el aislamiento geográfico como factor de asfixia histórica, el racismo galopante y a la vez negado, el aburrimiento como valor y el pánico por la imaginación.

What has the response to Siútico been like?

The book has been more of a success than I expected. The critics received it very well, and it is nearly a year among the top sellers. My compatriots have a certain inclination to read books where they can be recognized, especially in the little things, hatred and vengeance. There should be a genre on the subject. A paragraph in the book is called “what it takes to be Chilean.” The role of the secret code, on the understanding, cruelty disguised as good tone, geographic isolation as a factor of its stifling history, rampant racism and at the same time, boredom as value and panic in the place of imagination.

¿Tienes previsto proyectos similares en el futuro?

Similares creo que no. Estoy un poco intoxicado con el tema y necesito sacarlo de mi sistema para no terminar estallando en la calle.

Are you planning similar projects in the future?

I don’t think anything similar. I am a little intoxicated with the theme and I need to get it out of my system so as to not end up in the street.

Peter Beilharz

Peter Beilharz is Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University where he edits Thesis Eleven, an interdisciplinary academic journal on theories of modernity. Here he offers his perspective on the way south.

My planned research includes a co-written book on the life and work of the founding mother of Australian sociology, Jean Martin; a book on the peculiarities of Australian modernity across the twentieth century; a shared book on the history of rock music in Australia; and a study of the work of Robert Hughes, to follow on my book on the work of Bernard Smith, Imagining the Antipodes. All this work is animated by the idea of thinking about the antipodes, rather than the south; and by the idea that culture works through cultural traffic . These concerns cross over with some of the agendas of our journal, Thesis Eleven. The Thesis Eleven Centre pursues some of these interests with collaborators in India, the Philippines, Thailand, and New Zealand. We would be very pleased to take them into South America. In addition, I have cause to consider my own location in all this – Australia and el Norte – as we construct the hundredth issue of Thesis Eleven, and begin to narrate our own stories, and as I work with Sian Supski , who is writing about my own work in its antipodean inflexions .

I find Bernard Smith’s thinking both interesting and innovative. Innovation often happens on the edges, and goes unnoticed . For Smith, the antipodes matters as a relationship rather than a place: wherever we are, we are always here and there at the same time. And then, culture is best understood not as emanation of place  but as the negotiation of these relationships .

I can see the effectivity of the idea of the South as a political slogan, but it has limits that cause me to have reservations. Culture does not map neatly onto geography . Much of the south is in the north culturally, and the other way round. What interests me is the traffic between peoples, cities and regions. We have a great deal to learn by looking sideways. I would like to see more dialogue on a southern axis, across Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa. But all these worlds are co-constituted by other worlds, and cannot be separated out from these entanglements any more than el Norte can be understood without reference to us. In this context I do not have especial priorities – everything should be open for discussion, where stories can be told in a comparative way, and actors can feel comfortable talking about experience or intellect in ways that get the sparks of imagination flying.

To reform or to start again? An argument across the south

In Kuala Lumpur 24-26 January 2009 there was a south-south event titled The International Conference on Hegemony, Counter Hegemony and Alternatives to Hegemony: Implications for the South. This event was part of a ‘scholarly collaboration program’ between three major academic networks across the South – CODESRIA, APISA and CLACSO. The participants represented a tri-continental range of views, with particularly strong representation from Nigeria, Malaysia, Colombia, Mexico and Argentina.

The session began with an introduction by the organisers, Hari Singh (Malaysia), Adebayo Olukoshi (Nigeria) and Alberto Cimadamore (Argentina). They contextualised this initiative within the  sense of discomfort that the only way colleagues in the South could learn about each other’s counties was through northern centres, such as the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. The aim of this event was to share ideas about the hegemonic relation of North towards South in a broad manner, including perspectives beyond international relations.

So the conference began with a discussion of ‘verticalism’ which explored the cognitive dimension of the South. In discussion, the Western orientation towards the highest point in the landscape was countered by a Botswana perspective, where the top of the hill is considered a lonely place far from the centre of power in the valley. And the Western focus on the setting sun was also differentiated from the Pakistani poetry in praise of the rising sun. This phenomenological approach to the idea of South seemed a fruitful dimension of comparison.

The first of many debates began with the Colombian situation. There were strong differences over whether FARC guerrillas were a spent force in Colombian politics, with one arguing that they had lost support through their violence and another claiming that the issues they represented were still relevant, even though they were denied by the middle class elites that dominated politics.

The second and parallel debate concerned the issue of language. It was proposed that languages in different regions needed to be consolidated around a lingua franca, such as Hausa in West Africa and Swahili in East Africa. This consolidation was seen as necessary to develop regional capacities, though it was countered by a defence of linguistic diversity. This argument seemed to reflect an ongoing division between the realist and romantic positions in the South – whether the answer lay in adapting existing structures of power to Southern interests or in dismantling those structures in themselves.

China was a dominant topic in the second day. It began with a critique of the damage that Chinese imports had inflicted on the Nigerian textile industry. Almost all textile factories have now turned to vegetable oil production.  Part of the problem seemed to lie not just with the Chinese, but also Nigerian entrepeneurs that too often sacrificed quality for the sake of low price. The discussion developed around the hope that China might provide an alternative hegemon to the United States. But it seemed that China had little interest in competing with the US for global leadership, and was simply looking to further its own interests. In the course of this discussion the positive dimension of hegemony was revealed as the promise of a leadership that would seek to establish common interests. The broad argument between reformist and revolutionary positions raised the question whether the solution was to establish a new fairer hegemon or try to find an alternative to hegemony per se.

During the course of these discussions, questions were often raised about the meaning of South. What is the ideological link between countries of the South? Is there a common interest beyond contestation of the global hierarchy? It seemed in this context that the idiomatic use of the word ‘South’ played a important role in opening up the problem of global equity. ‘South’ provides a more neutral identity than the negative concepts such as ‘developing’ or ‘third’ world. But giving identity to this ‘South’ is an important challenge that still lies ahead. Future discussions are likely to be around the ethical dimension of the southern perspective.

Finally, there was discussion about Australia’s position as a country of the geographical South yet of the Global North. Australia’s ongoing perspective on these issues, particularly from a Pacific point of view, was warmly welcomed.

Presenters included Franca Attoh Chitoh (Nigeria), Olga Castillo-Ospina (Colombia), Romer Cornejo (Mexico), Jerónimo Delgado (Colombia), Gladys Hernández (Cuba), Brendan Howe (South Korea), Ijaz Khan (Pakistan), Bárbara Medwid (Argentina), Lipalile Mufana (Zambia), Kevin Murray (Australia), Kolawole Olu-Owolabi (Nigeria), and Kenneth Simala (Kenya)

The paper on ‘verticalism’ is available here.

Interview with Raewyn Connell

Professor Raewyn Connell explains the thinking behind her book Southern Theory.

What were your aims in writing "Southern Theory"?

Fourteen years ago, when I began this work, I aimed simply to correct a historical error – the textbook belief that sociology was invented to explain the new industrial society of Europe. I found that the creation of sociology was in fact closely bound up with the cultural problems of imperialism (sociology originally concerned "progress" and centred on a contrast between "primitive" and "advanced" societies). Without intending to, this piece of historical research opened up other questions about the relations between social science and world society.

By the time the book was written, I had two main aims and one subsidiary. First, I wanted to show how mainstream ideas and frameworks across the social sciences, which are usually taken as universally valid, actually embed the specific viewpoint of the global North. I wanted to show in some detail just how this viewpoint works, for instance in shaping concepts like "globalization" or in the ideas of celebrated theorists. I wanted to show how the uncritical importation of Northern perspectives gives a strange twist to the way social science operates in the global periphery, in countries like Australia.

Second, I wanted to show that there are real alternatives. Southern theory isn’t just a pipe-dream, it actually exists – though mainly in texts that are not widely read. So much of the text of Southern Theory is a matter of gathering up social analyses from different parts of the periphery, and thinking about them as social theory – that is, taking them as seriously as we usually take Foucault, Habermas, or Bourdieu. I wanted to get names such as Hountondji, Shariati, Das, Nandy, Garcia Canclini, Mamdani, and others into wider circulation, and persuade readers that the debates they are involved in are crucial for social science. I wanted to argue that the periphery generates important issues and ideas, it doesn’t just receive them. I tried to show that in another way too, by discussing the land as a key issue for understanding society – an issue highlighted by the history of settler colonialism and the land rights struggles of indigenous peoples.

If I could make progress on those two aims, a third became relevant. I wanted to stir up a discussion about what a democratic social science would look like, if we thought about it on a world scale. Discussions about epistemology and the structure of knowledge usually happen in a separate box from discussions about globalization and world politics. But they have to be brought together, if the argument in Southern Theory is broadly correct. In the final chapter I have a go at that problem; it’s sketchy, but at least it’s there.

What has the response been, in the North and South?

It is early days yet, for reviews in academic journals; but the first that have appeared, a review symposium in a UK journal and a regular review in an Australian journal, are very positive. I have been invited to speak on these questions at conferences and departmental seminars – mostly in my own fields of sociology and gender studies – and people in the university world have responded with interest. The International Sociological Association is an important forum for me.

I can’t say that Southern Theory is a runaway best-seller, yet! There have been no reviews in Australian mass media, which disappoints me. But I think it is gradually getting known. A quotation from Southern Theory has been used by an artist as the theme for a poster, exhibited in Germany. The Australian Sociological Association has recently awarded it the Stephen Crook Memorial Prize for the best monograph in Australian sociology 2005-2007 – I shed some tears at the presentation. I have had supportive email messages from people in the periphery, who find the book helpful because it names problems that they also faced, i.e. it validates their experience. Some scholars, in the metropole as well as the periphery, are sending me papers in which they are already building on the ideas of Southern Theory in their own fields. That is particularly exciting for me, as I believe that the growth of knowledge is very much a collective work.

Of course there are criticisms. One is particularly interesting. When I gave a seminar on the ideas at a US university, there was criticism from one colleague who was disturbed at the risk involved. If graduate students were persuaded by Southern Theory to spend their time reading Shariati, Nandy, Hountondji and other exotic authors, they would be distracted from the business of learning the mainstream professional knowledge on which their careers depended. This is a real issue, I take it seriously. There are risks for social scientists in the metropole, in the kind of global re-shaping of social science that I think is necessary.

What do you think are some of the questions raised by the book?

One of the most difficult, constantly raised in critical discussions and reviews, is what is meant by the "South". I say several times in the book that there is no single Southern perspective, and in fact show that in great detail. But it is still a nagging question. The geographer’s "South" is not exactly the same as the "South" in UN trade debates, or the "third world", or the "less developed countries", or the economists’ "periphery", or the cultural theorists’ "post-colonial" world, or the biologists’ "southern world", or the geologists’ former Gondwana – though there is some overlapping along this spectrum. I mainly talk of "metropole" and "periphery", but there is enormous social diversity within each; recognizing the polarity is only the beginning of analysis, not the end.

It seems particularly difficult to think of Australia as "South" – though the name actually means South-ia – probably because it is a rich country in world terms, and likes to think of itself politically or culturally as part of the "West", heaven help us. Partly because of the dominance of the misleading concept of "globalization", which I dissect in the book, we don’t have well-developed concepts for understanding the power of periphery-metropole relations or the complexities of the periphery. So there is work to be done, understanding the economics of primary-exporting economies such as Australia’s, the culture of post-settler-colonialism, and the ways ethnicity, class and gender are shaped in the different societies of the periphery.

Another question raised by the book, at a very practical level, is how knowledge circulates in the periphery. Southern Theory is published in Australia and the UK, in English; and there will be a small edition published in India. There has been some discussion of translations into other languages, but no publisher has undertaken that yet. How would its arguments get known in Latin America, in Africa, or in China? Mainly, by the book being discussed by scholars in the USA and Europe! In fact, the best chance I have of the book becoming known in the global periphery, is if it gets used as a textbook in social theory courses in the metropole. The fact that we still rely on the metropole to circulate ideas around the periphery is a problem discussed in the book, and I don’t know what solutions there may be.

How are you following this line of thought?

Firstly, by discussing the ideas of Southern Theory in as many forums as I can, and trying to get social scientists to read the theorists introduced in it. That would be a success in itself.

Next, I’m trying to apply the perspective in other fields of my work. For instance in 2009 the second edition of my book Gender is being published, which makes more use of Southern research and theoretical work than most of the English-language literature in this field. I have been working on a global sociology of intellectuals, some of which lies behind Southern Theory in fact, and which I hope to sharpen up in the light of the book and responses to it.

Finally, I’m doing what I can to encourage other people, including students, to work on these problems. I don’t think Southern Theory is more than a beginning – a rank beginning in some of the areas it touches, given the problems of language. And of course it’s not the only thing in its field! There have been discussions of these and related issues in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia; so in the papers I write, I try to spread awareness of other texts and debates. The broader the process that unfolds, the better.

Raewyn Connell is University Professor at University of Sydney

Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences

JAPSS Press, a branch of the Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences is calling for chapter proposals for an Edited Volume dealing with Regionalism and Development in the Asia Pacific Region. Some possible topics are the following:
– South to South Cooperation
– International Norms and Regionalism in the Asia Pacific Region
– Globalization and Regionalism
– Development
– Human Rights and Regionalism
– Cultural Change and Regionalism
The book will be published under the name of the Journal and will be distributed in the United States and the World. The expenses for this project will be covered by the Journal and its supporting organizations. Editorial work will be undertaken by qualified scholars affiliated with the Journal. This is a wonderful opportunity for junior scholars and scholars from the developing world to share their research with the wider academic community.
If interested please submit a short abstract of the proposed chapter in addition to a brief resume to the Editor in Chief of the Journal.
Otto F. von Feigenblatt,
Editor in Chief, Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences
Email: [email protected]
Visit the website at