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Global South Perspectives: Towards decolonization, de-stratification and de-centralization of social knowledge production

International Workshop

18-19 April 2018

Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Keynote speakers:
Prof. Pei-Chia Lan, National Taiwan University
Dr. Tamari Kitossa, Brock University

Plenary speakers:
Prof. Franz Waldenberger, German Institute for Japanese Studies,  The Max Weber Foundation
Prof. Bandana Purkayastha, University of Connecticut

Call for papers

Social knowledge and knowledge production, on a global level, is heavily stratified. Most centers of social knowledge production, such as globally high-ranked universities,  ‘international’ academic journals, ‘competitive’ conferences and major funding bodies lie in Western countries. Producers  of social knowledge, especially those of greater influence and prestige, tend to be White, from Western societies, or had to undergo training at high-ranking Western universities and display in-depth familiarity with the academic and cultural grammars disseminated there.

Critics in the fields of Postcolonialism, Cultural Studies, Global South-driven Critical Theory, and Critical Race and Whiteness Studies have argued that this imbalance in global knowledge production, initiated by imperialism and colonialism and maintained and re-inscribed by vast contemporary global inequalities,is systematically distorting the knowledge that is produced. As Walter Mignolo and others have pointed out, knowledge production is carried out under Western master frames or ‘cosmologies,’ which center and mainstream Western theory and findings as the scholarly ‘core’ and the foundation that new knowledge must be built on, while provincializing and trivializing non-Western past and present knowledge production, and relegating non-Western territories to sites for data collection.

It has been argued that this stratification in knowledge production leads to Western and White lived experiences, perspectives, interests, and sensitivities being woven into social theory, which is subsequently not recognized as positioned, but mainstreamed and normalized as ‘general theory’. Conversely, theoretical and empirical work that is underpinned by, and focuses on, the lived experiences, perspectives and concerns of Non-White and Non-Western scholars, faces much stronger hurdles to recognition, and tends to be deselected, or assigned to the margins rather than the center of social knowledge: To a late session on the last day of a conference, to a roundtable, to a section on ‘regional’ issues in a journal, or to a job in ‘ethnic studies.’

Situated as we are in a globally interconnected system with highly unequal distribution of resources,  burdens, and life chances, this highly stratified knowledge production is problematic,  and can even be dangerous. It is problematic because the social sciences are not accumulating knowledge on ‘the global social,’ but instead they are producing an incomplete, distorted version of it. It is dangerous because policy decisions of strong local and global influence are in danger of being made following partial, one-sided or even biased knowledges. For example, free trade agreements or other international policies, implemented based on supposedly neutral knowledge, benefit Western societies but are associated with increased social stratification, labor exploitation, environmental destruction, toxin dumping and other problems in the Global South. Elsewhere, migration policies are designed that focus on keeping out, screening and disciplining migrants, ignoring groundbreaking work by racialized scholars on the causes of and countermeasures against racism and discrimination by receiving society members.

The aim of this workshop is to strengthen the dialogue, connections and collaboration of scholars pursuing ‘Southern’ or ‘Subaltern’ approaches. Scholars are invited to discuss research agendas, theories, methodological issues and empirical studies based on perspectives, experience, concerns and needs of people in the Global South and racialized or indigenous groups in the Global North. The workshop emphasizes thematic inclusiveness.

All interested individuals are invited to submit papers as well as session proposals!

Download the PDF version of the 2018 Call for Papers here!

View the booklet of the 2017 Global South Perspectives workshop here!

Please note: This workshop is organized back-to-back with the 6th Global Social Sciences Graduate Student Conference held on the 20th of April at Hong Kong Baptist University. Participants are welcome to attend and present at both events.

Submission:

Please submit abstracts (max. 250 words)
to: globalsouthperspectives@gmail.com

Submission Deadline: February 15th 2018

Workshop grants:

A limited number of travel grants to the workshop are available. Applicants for the grants must hold a PhD, and must have submitted their workshop presentation as a full paper (max. 9000 words) by the 15th of February, 2018). The travel subsidy will be paid in cash during the workshop Hong Kong.

Organized by: The Joint Research Group on Migration, China and the Global Context

Max Weber Foundation & Faculty of Social Sciences, Hong Kong Baptist University

New book of member

Katy N. Lam, Research Fellow of the research group and Assistant Professor in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has recently published a book entitled, Chinese State Owned Enterprises in West Africa: A Triple-Embedded Globalization. with Routledge.

Abstract

This book investigates the globalization process of Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in West Africa, primarily in Benin and Ghana, based on ethnographic research. It challenges the dominant vision of “a powerful China in Africa”, and argues that the so-called “Chinese business advantages” – monolithic Chinese state and Chinese low cost advantages, are non-viable for sustaining Chinese business development in the continent. Considering the Chinese SOEs globalization process in a relational approach, this book examines how the triple embeddedness (Chinese, African and managerial) shapes the Chinese SOEs globalization process over time and space, in diverse dimensions and among different entities – the Chinese state, Chinese SOEs, Chinese expatriates, the African government, African business partners, African staff, and the African society. It illustrates that the Chinese central state has “retreated” deliberately from its SOE globalization in Africa. The Chinese SOEs and Chinese expats are the major actors in initiating and inventing globalization strategies, facing limited Chinese state support and the African neopatrimonial governance and social contexts. Besides, the personal trajectories (from expatriation to social promotion) of Chinese SOE expats interweave with the globalization-turn-localization of their SOEs in Africa. Rejecting the linear, static and binary vision of “powerful China in powerless Africa”, the present study thus emphasizes power dynamics in Chinese SOEs’ globalization process are organic and pluralistic though in certain extent hierarchical –”second-class”. Time and local relations are key elements constituting the real Chinese advantages for Chinese SOEs vis-a-vis their ultimate competitors – not Western companies, but other Chinese companies.

Table of contents

  1. CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION
  2. CHAPTER 2 – “RETREAT” OF THE CHINESE STATE
  3. CHAPTER 3 – AFRICAN EMBEDDEDNESS AND VULNERABLE CHINESE
  4. CHAPTER 4 – AFRICAN MANAGERS AND WORKERS
  5. CHAPTER 5 – CHINESE EXPATS
  6. CHAPTER 6 – COMPETING FOR THE “CHINESE COMMUNITY
  7. CHAPTER 7 – CONCLUSION

For a detailed table of contents, please click TOC_Chinese SOEs in West Africa

Rich interdisciplinary exchange at the workshop ‘Global South Perspectives’

On April 20th, 2017, the workshop ‘Global South Perspectives’ was held, organized by the research group ‘Migration, China, and the Global Context,’ with generous support of the Max Weber Foundation and the Hong Kong Baptist University Faculty of Social Sciences. The workshop gathered local and overseas scholars to discuss theoretical and empirical perspectives gained in the Global South with the aim of de-centering and revising scholarship from the Global North. It united scholars from a wide variety of regions, including Hong Kong, Mainland China, Taiwan, India, the Phillipines, Pakistan, Turkey, Poland, France and Germany. This rich blend sparked a very fruitful exchange of perspectives and mutual enrichment, and a vibrant and innovative dialogue pervaded the meeting.

The meeting was started by an agenda-setting keynote speech introducing a world-premiering theoretical framework of the concept of ‘cultural inequality,’ by Matthew M. Chew from Hong Kong Baptist University’s Sociology department. The workshop also included six panel sessions on the topics of migration and race and ethnicity, general theory, gender and sexualities, historical approaches, and work and globalizing economies, all of which led to lively debates. The workshop received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the participants.

Some highlights of the workshop included:

  • A discussion of how mainstream ontological and epistemological approaches in the Social Sciences are influenced by notions stemming from Western Philosophy such as dialectics, and how concepts from non-Western Philosophical schools could serve to diversify these approaches.
  • A discussion how the Chinese concept xing could be made fruitful for broader understandings of sexuality.
  • A debate on the greater need to investigate privilege along with discrimination and marginalization.
  • A discussion on the power of social scientists to re-inscribe power relations which they are advocating against, e.g. by using terms with different connotations for different migrant groups.

The workshop booklet can be viewed here.