Some thoughts on the global south

by Michelle

What is the global south? A geo-spatial description of countries that also takes into account their cultural and economic oppression under globalisation. In the wake of rising fascism over the last years and detention camps in Texas and the Mexican-US border, the Hungarian border, with Nauru and Manus, and the Libyan slave trade we need to be organised and hear directly from minorities, from those who are oppressed, exploited, those who have been shifted and gated.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about along with the way that race operates its everyday aggressions and hierarchies. At writers’ festivals and seminars on world literature, southern latitudes, or indeed, on racism, it is always interesting to consider who is speaking for whom. There is a selection process in literary culture that determines not only the identity of members of a group but also what they may speak about,

Gayatri Spivak is one theorist I’ve read and keep returning to. I think her earlier work is too easily dismissed as ‘difficult’ because her language is necessarily radical, resisting Western forms of rationalism. In an essay, ‘Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism’ she is critical of Eurocentric ‘worlding’ and its complicity with the roles of women as soul-makers and house keepers. In ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ she offers a brilliant and proactive analysis on how Western criticism purports to speak for the oppressed ‘other’ exclusively through interpretation; how it valorises and objectively determines the material experience of the colonised, whilst tuning a blind eye to the historical role of the critic. The presumed innocence of discourse, its apparent neutrality, is a colonial modality of thinking.

For these reasons, I am thrilled and honoured to be a part of a Global South Salon at the Global South and World Literatures conference. I’m grateful to the organiser, Professor Yixu Lu, and to the esteemed author and academic, Nicholas Jose for recommending my work. I’ll be reading from my writing with some fine Sydney-based writers who have global south connections and resistant imaginaries. There will also be a creative contingent of writers from Argentina, China, Egypt, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Myanmar, New Caledonia, and New Zealand.

On Friday 23rd August, Clarence Walden, a Gangalidda political leader and Alexis Wright will be speaking about some of the horrors of Australia’s colonial history that have been covered up, specifically the abuse he and others suffered at the Doomadgee Mission.

This is quite radical in itself; to conceptualise oppression as an experience that has been shared by Aboriginal people as well as other colonised people. This is why ‘global south’ is malleable and useful politically during times when we need activism to be networking in skilful and purposeful ways. Because apathy is not going to reverse the malevolence we have all become complicit in but neither will narcissistic ranting on social media. Don’t get me wrong; I spend time on social media, and I like my page to reflect my interests, my concerns and my state of mind. ‘Global south’ doesn’t yoke differences under a banner that privileges a particular normative; nor is it limited to a particular culture or region.

For details about these events and the to register for the conference here’s the link from the School of Languages at the University of Sydney. 

Thanks to Carielyn Tunion, for design: @aliencry