Tag Archives: hegemony

Argentinean conference on ‘multi-versalism’ – call for papers

Conference Mendoza, 3-6 November 2010

Working title:

“Cultural elements in social sciences and in academic labor – Epistemological and educational challenges constructing a scientific multi-versalism”

Workshop rationale

The era of globalization confronts social thought with a twofold paradox: Firstly, in the era of globalization knowledge about foreign societies and policies has gained importance, especially since the anticipated arrival of a “multi-polar” world makes knowledge about different regions indispensable. Due to the effects of globalization on the historically nationally constructed societies also local phenomena increasingly incorporate international dimensions requiring the internationalization of the social sciences knowledge production. However, due to their emergence in the context of nation states namely in Europe, the categories social science uses for interpreting social phenomena, have strong conceptual ties with particular nation states and their societal cultures. While countries and their societies beyond Europe to which the concept of nation state had been exported rarely gained the powerful tradition as nationally constructed societies as they did from where the concept originates, the concepts and categories of the social sciences that emerged in the context of the European national based societies have been spread over the world constituting the international standards of a scientific universalism.

Secondly, while the process of globalisation adjusts the economies of the societies on the globe to the standards of market economies, the very same adjustment of the economic standards raises the attention of those very societies to their particular identities interpreting globalisation through the perspective of the role they play in the globe, constructed via the roots of their individual histories and their distinctive cultural and political traditions. The reconfiguration of space and power through globalization necessitates the understanding of the peculiar social and cultural prerequisites of social thought allowing for divers interpretations of globalization and of the emerging new world order.

However, the need for diverse interpretations of the “Global” is confronted with the need to question the scientific foundations of a former worldwide acknowledged scientific universalism, constitutive of what has been considered as modern scientific knowledge, which, however, as Said has shown for the Asian societies, is often only the interpretation of the world through the eyes and the categories of a European social science perspective.

As a result, the need for multiple interpretations of the global does not only have to encompass the parochial categories of nation-based societies as their analytical framework allowing for internationalized scientific interpretations of the world, but also have to overcome the universalization of the Western parochial interpretation of the global, inevitably questioning the global validity of Western social science concepts, thus also eroding the established universal foundations of social science thinking.

If the SSH are to be global they must become open to a plurality of cultural realities and schemes of interpretation, without falling into cultural relativism. In this process it is very likely that they become reformulated and even transformed through multiple dialogues and interactions among the individuals, groups and institutions that generate and ultimately create a new social science world order. This creation of a new global social science world order will inevitably have to go through a phase of a scientific multi-versalism, encountering all the conflicts incorporated in the epistemological contradiction of a pluralism of universalisms.

The main objective of the workshop is to reflect on how to escape from local parochialism as a theoretical framework for interpreting the global, how to overcome the universalization of Western parochialism, its concepts and categories of social thinking hegemonizing the interpretation of the global, and how to begin to create and establish a bottom up scientific multi-versalism based on the different cultural standards of sciences and of academic labor.

Call for abstracts

  • Please send your abstracts by the 30. April 1010.

  • The abstracts should not exceed 750 words.

Topics for papers


  1. The papers should reflect on cultural elements in social sciences and in social scientists’ academic labour
  1. If possible, they should reflect on the issues in an international comparative perspective,
  1. discuss individual local phenomena from and towards a global perspective
  1. and allow for critical reflections of the concepts and theories dominating the field.

Topics to be addressed are


  1. Review and critical discussion of existing theories and research about issues related to the internationalisation of social sciences and humanities (scientific universalism, academic dependence, indigenous and scientific knowledge, knowledge and culture, etc)
  1. Fundamental reflections about the relation of culture and social sciences
  1. Concepts of culture and their applicability to social sciences
  1. Methodological implications of the diversity of concepts of social knowledge and academic labour


  1. Examples of cultural dimensions of social knowledge and academic labour
  1. Examples from intercultural scientific collaborations
  1. Unknown social science knowledge “behind the northern science and language walls”


  1. Theories, concepts and approaches to Higher Education in the light of global social sciences
  1. Encountering cultural elements in international collaborations: Implication for HE
  1. Scientific competencies for international scientific collaborations

Contact: Michael Kuhn

Web: www.knowwhy.net, blog

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.