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This workshop is addressing current debates regarding the dominance of Northern thought in social theory. The role of modern European Empire and European modernity, as well as the structure of current knowledge systems in marginalising theory from the South has been discussed in this connection. Although the liveliest debate on these issues has been coming out of the discipline of sociology, scholars from other parts of the social sciences have also contributed.
While the critique of social theory's northern bias has been immensely useful, this workshop is organized with an aim to discuss the next step of the effort. The overall theme to which all contributions will relate is: What could a move towards active engagement with Southern theory – without shedding the contributions of Northern theory – actually imply for social movements, to academic disciplines, and to applied research on both the North and South?
Organization and participation
The workshop format is unconventional in the sense that there will be no open call for papers; instead ten scholars active within the field have been invited to submit previously unpublished papers.
The workshop proceedings are organised as a series of conversations between the invitees, running over two days. Each contribution will be assigned a discussant, which means that the participant will on one occasion present his/hers own work and on another occasion engage the work of a colleague. Each conversation has been allotted one hour, and will be video recorded, edited and webcasted with a short delay. We are also planning an edited volume on the back of the workshop. Others with an interest in the theme are welcome to participate in the open discussion following each conversation, or to follow the web cast.
The workshop is organized by Henrik Chetan Aspengren, with logistical assistance by the Nordic Centre in India (Umeå and Delhi). The workshop is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and LNU Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies. The funding is administred by NCI Umeå.
The participants have been asked to relate their contribution to one of three specific questions, ensuring a tighter fit between each paper and the general aim of the workshop:
• How can the work of contemporary social theory, generally produced in Northern/Western universities, be useful to social movements around the global south?
• How can Southern and decolonial theories connect over disciplinary and geographical boundaries and what is the role [place] of the university in this process?
• How can concepts developed in the South effectively be introduced to studies of social processes also in the North?
The workshop will provide a unique contribution in at least three ways. First, by moving forward the current debates on the relationship between Southern and Northern theory, and on how to actually and in practical terms conceive of Global social theory applicable to both the South and the North. Second, by discussing how both academia, and social movements, could be informed by Southern theory, the contributions will move between different spheres of action and investigate how theory might be put to work in both. Third, it brings together a unique collection of voices from different disciplines within the social sciences.
During the third day of the workshop, we have arranged for two separate panels to take place at Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Observer Research Foundation, respectively.
List of invited participants
Syed Farid Alatas, Associate professor, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore; Gennaro Ascione Associate professor, University of Naples; Gurminder K Bhambra, Professor of Sociology, University of Warwick; Manuela Boatca Professor of Sociology, University of Freiburg; Raewyn Connell, Professor Emerita, University of Sydney; Ananta Kumar Giri, Madras Institute of Development Studies; Stefan Jonsson Professor of Ethnic studies, Linköping University; Sujata Patel, Professor of Sociology, University of Hyderabad; Aakash Singh Rathore, Visiting professor Centre for Philosophy, Jawaharlal Nehru University; Sanjay Seth Professor of Politics, Goldsmith, University of London.