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PLT13210.1177/1473095213499216Planning TheoryConnell


Planning Theory
2014, Vol. 13(2) 210­–223
Using southern theory: © The Author(s) 2013
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Decolonizing social thought
DOI: 10.1177/1473095213499216
in theory, research and


Raewyn Connell
University of Sydney, Australia

Recent work in social science challenges managerial assumptions about homogenous knowledge
domains, and traces the effects of a world economy of knowledge structured by the history of
colonialism and current north-south global inequalities. The differentiation of knowledge rests
on the very different histories and situations of metropolitan, creole, colonized and post-colonial
intelligentsias. Different knowledge projects have been constructed in global space, which feed
back on our understanding of knowledge itself. Less recognized, but increasingly important, are
uses of southern and postcolonial perspectives in applied social science, in areas ranging from
education to urban planning. Some implications of these applications are discussed: southern
theory is not a fixed set of propositions but a challenge to develop new knowledge projects and
new ways of learning with globally expanded resources.

Knowledge, social science, postcolonial, global south, intellectuals

Introduction: knowledge, globalization and coloniality

I work at the University of Sydney in Australia. This is a moderately large and wealthy
institution devoted to teaching and producing knowledge. The managers of the University
are much concerned with the visible production of knowledge and our standing in global
league tables. Therefore, when they got the budget sums wrong in 2011 and proposed to
get themselves out of trouble by sacking 300 of my fellow workers, the academics they
targeted were those who had failed to produce enough academically certified publica-
tions. The managers were on trend. The Australian government has been trying for years
to introduce systems for ranking universities, departments and individuals in terms of

Corresponding author:
Raewyn Connell, Faculty of Education and Social Work A35, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
Connell 211

research productivity, borrowing these schemes mostly from Britain. Publication and
patent counts, citation rates, journal impact factors and peer rankings are among the dis-
mal devices for making university research output measurable, and so auditable.
These devices share a basic feature. To make neoliberal ranking exercises work,
authorities must assume that there is a homogeneous domain of knowledge on which the
measuring operations may be performed. In this model, there is a single domain of bio-
chemistry, on which all biochemistry journals and their contributors can be arrayed and
ranked. There is a single domain of sociology, a single domain of philosophy and so on.
The Web of Knowledge stretches out smoothly in all directions, embracing all countries
and connecting all practitioners in a global, homogeneous tissue.
In the last decade or so, social scientists on six continents have been arguing that this
model of knowledge is false – though its hegemony is a matter of importance. Quijano
(2000) shows the coloniality of power shaping the intellectual worlds of Latin America;
the argument also applies elsewhere. Chakrabarty’s (2000) well-known Provincializing
Europe argues that the categories and reasonings of social history do not in any simple
way translate from Europe to India. Alatas (2006) documents a rich arena of social-
scientific thought in the Arab world, south and southeast Asia markedly different from
northern models. The anthropologists Comaroff and Comaroff (2011) show in fine detail
experiences and ways of theorizing in Africa that may show the future to the north.
Bhambra (2007) makes a powerful critique of the Eurocentric imaginings underpinning
sociological concepts of modernity. Reuter and Villa (2010) and Rodríguez et al. (2010)
in Europe and Go (2012) in the United States show the need for postcolonial perspectives
in sociology. Keim (2008) makes an extended case study of the distinctive logic of indus-
trial sociology in southern Africa. My Southern Theory (Connell, 2007) shows hidden
geopolitical assumptions in northern social theory and discusses a wide range of power-
ful social thought from the colonized and postcolonial world.
A feature of this recent work, and one of the ways it differs from postcolonial studies
in the humanities, is a global sociology of knowledge based on what might be called a
political economy of knowledge. A key contribution was made by Hountondji’s (1997
[1994]) analysis of the postcolonial periphery as a site of knowledge production. There
is a global division of labour, running through the history of modern science and still
powerful today. The role of the periphery is to supply data, and later to apply knowledge
in the form of technology and method. The role of the metropole, as well as producing
data, is to collate and process data, producing theory (including methodology) and devel-
oping applications which are later exported to the periphery.
Within this structure, Hountondji argues, the attitude of intellectuals in the periphery
is one of ‘extraversion’, that is, being oriented to sources of authority outside their own
society. This is very familiar in academic practice even in a rich peripheral country like
Australia. We travel to Berkeley for advanced training, take our sabbatical in Cambridge,
invite a Yale professor to give our keynote address, visit a Berlin laboratory, teach from
US textbooks, read theory from Paris and try to publish our papers in Nature or the
American Economic Review. This pattern is empirically demonstrable; it is named ‘aca-
demic dependency’ by Alatas (2006) and ‘quasi-globalization’ in my study of Australian
intellectual workers (Connell, 2011, ch. 6).
The picture of the world sociology and economy of knowledge is being filled out
empirically in the course of these discussions. For instance, Keim (2011) has shown
212 Planning Theory 13(2)

quantitatively the dominance of northern institutions in globally recognized social sci-

ence; Murphy and Zhu (2012) do the same for management studies. Keim has fascinat-
ing data on the limited presence of southern intellectuals in a particular northern research
centre. Collyer (2012) develops a method of contextual citation analysis that shows the
unequal location of Australian, UK and US sociologists in a hierarchical world structure.
Hanafi (2011) shows the stratification of intellectual production in the Middle East, with
intellectual workers compartmentalized by language and type of institution and research.
How can the global pattern of centrality versus dependence be contested? One way is
to assert alternative knowledge systems. There is, in some views, an African knowledge
system – or perhaps multiple ones – independent of the Western knowledge system (see
the discussions in Odora Hoppers, 2002). Similar arguments are made for indigenous
knowledge in North and South America, in Australia and elsewhere. The de-colonial
school (Mignolo, 2007) presents a politics of knowledge based on absolute opposition
between the colonizing culture and the colonized.
Indigenous knowledge is often asserted as a retort to the imperialism of Western sci-
ence or culture. This retort has had a political impact, and its consequences have not
always been happy. The attempt in South Africa to combat the HIV epidemic by means
of local healing practices in place of antiretrovirals (rather than mutually supporting) was
a devastating mistake (Cullinan and Thom, 2009). Hountondji is one who is critical of a
silo approach to indigenous knowledge. He has formulated a concept of endogenous
knowledge which emphasizes active processes of knowledge production that arise in
indigenous societies and have a capacity to speak beyond them: the emphasis is com-
munication not separation (Hountondji, 1997 [1994], 2002).
To understand these discontinuities and asymmetries in knowledge, we have to start
with what brought them into existence: conquest, the world of colonialism and the world
of neoliberal globalization in which new kinds of colonialism have appeared. In the elo-
quent opening passage of Architects of Poverty, Mbeki (2009: x–xi) compares the slave
house on Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal at the westernmost point of Africa, with
the oil-rigs off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. Both have a door onto the sea. The former
carried slaves onto waiting ships to cross the Atlantic, while the latter pumps crude oil
straight onto tankers bound for the United States, industrializing East Asia and Europe.

Intelligentsias, empire and knowledge production

Producing knowledge is a form of labour, done by specific groups of workers in specific social
contexts. There is a labour process, which was re-structured by colonialism, and is now being
re-structured by neoliberal globalization. ‘Intellectual workers’ are not only those with a PhD or
a best-selling book. Intellectual labour is often collective; it is done in institutional settings rang-
ing from corporations to schools to churches, and can be combined with other forms of work.
Furthermore, intellectual work is shaped into different projects of knowledge formation.
Intellectual workers reflect the divisions in and the history of the societies in which
they live. Often the gender division of labour creates very different situations for women
and men as producers of knowledge, a fact recognized in feminist standpoint theory
(Harding, 2008). It is also important to recognize the different situations for intellectual
workers created by the process of colonization.
Connell 213

In the periphery, the group closest to the intelligentsia of the metropole was the intellec-
tual workers of settler society. To use the language of Spanish America, this is the creole
intelligentsia. Creole intellectuals are as diverse as Sor Juana, the great 17th-
century poet of Mexico; Thomas Jefferson, revolutionary and slave-owner of Virginia;
Rudyard Kipling, storyteller and ideologue of British India and Alfred Deakin, journalist,
historian and second Prime Minister of federated Australia. Colonialism involved massive
violence, everywhere, but it also required an intellectual workforce to operate what Mudimbe
(1988) calls the ‘colonizing structure’ – controlling space, integrating the economy and
changing the natives’ minds. There was also a need to maintain solidarity among the settler
population and adapt metropolitan culture to colonial conditions, as missionaries, teachers,
surveyors, agronomists, engineers, geologists, ethnographers, poets and journalists.
The creole intelligentsia was defined by the fact of empire. They were bearers of metro-
politan culture in new lands, and often had an intense engagement with fine details of this
culture – witness the technical virtuosity of Sor Juana, deploying the abstruse literary
knowledge and complex forms of baroque versification in Spanish (Paz, 1988). But they
were constantly defined by metropolitan culture as inferior – rough, derivative and remote.
The ‘cultural cringe’ diagnosed two generations ago by the Australian literary critic Arthur
Phillips (1950) is characteristic of creole cultures. Yet, part of the creole intelligentsia could
be pushed into outright opposition to empire: Jefferson and Bolivar come to mind.
Initially, sharply separate from creole intellectuals were the indigenous intelligentsias,
who found the societies supporting their work being directly or indirectly disrupted. The
ulama of Muslim societies in the Arabic and Persianate regions, the Brahmin intellectuals
of India and the mandarin class of neo-Confucian China are the best-known groups in this
situation. The poets and technologists of sub-Saharan Africa, the architects and scribes of
meso-America and the elders of Aboriginal communities in pre-colonial Australia, for all
the enormous differences between them, shared this relationship with the empire.
The cultures of which they were the bearers became the subject-matter of curiosity in the
metropole, culminating in Orientalist scholarship and cultural anthropology. A similar
approach could be taken by intellectuals under colonial rule, for instance, G. S. Ghurye, the
founding spirit of the Bombay school of sociology, who saw the study of ancient Sanskrit
texts as the key to understanding contemporary Indian society (Dhanagare, 2011). But the
working of the colonizing structure irreversibly re-shaped the conditions of intellectual work.
Some of the intellectuals of colonized societies turned to the task of adapting rather
than simply preserving, combining this with critique of the conquest and sieving the
culture of the colonizers. Mahatma Gandhi famously said that he discovered the princi-
ples of non-violence in Christianity, not in Indian tradition. Others found more help in
marxism. The évolués, the evolved ones, as French colonialism called the adapters, were
eventually the key to the liberation movements of the mid-20th century. They shattered
the French, Dutch and British empires in Africa and Asia, as the creole leaders of the late
18th and early 19th century had shattered the old empires in the Americas.
But after independence, both groups had to imagine a postcolonial social order. The
creole intellectuals of settler colonies laid the foundations for ‘new nations’ such as the
United States and Australia, but were strikingly unable to fashion inclusive societies with
a respected place for indigenous cultures. The modernizing intellectuals of indigenous-
majority states – the best-known being Nkrumah, Nehru and Sukarno – also had to
214 Planning Theory 13(2)

imagine new social orders, including new educational and cultural projects. This has
proved difficult in the face of poverty, global capitalism and neo-colonial violence.
Mbeki (2009), Mkandawire (2005) and other authors trace the failure of the independ-
ence-era projects of social and cultural development in Africa, in military coups, Cold-
War subversion by the United States and corruption of governing elites. Modernizing
indigenous intellectuals in settler-colonial states such as Australia have never had even
temporary relief from the pressure of the colonizing structure. It was the creole intellec-
tuals, such as Deakin, who wrote the constitution of Australia, which was only amended
to include indigenous people in the census of the population – the mark of acknowledged
citizenship – as recently as 1967.
In the era of neoliberal globalization, the question is now what kind of intelligentsia is
sustainable in postcolonial settings that has any kind of autonomy from the powerful north-
ern-centred economy of knowledge described earlier. The privatization of higher educa-
tion, the standardization of curricula and pedagogy and the intensification of competition,
all weaken an autonomous workforce. So does the dependence of research, across much of
the periphery, on aid programmes and NGOs which tend to produce, as Mkandawire (2005)
emphasizes, short-term, under-funded projects on applied problems.
The Iranian sociologist, theologian and activist Ali Shariati was one who worked
towards a long-term solution. Towards the end of his life, he was in a progressive Islamic
centre, the Hosseiniyeh Ershad in Tehran, and developed for this institution an ambitious
research and teaching programme (Shariati, 1986). Shariati’s concept of rushanfekr,
intellectuals ‘who have a sense of responsibility for their time and society and wish to do
something about it’, is attractive. But such intellectuals’ capacity to understand deeply
and to connect with the mass of the people has to be taken on faith. Hosseiniyeh Ershad
was closed, and Shariati died, before the programme had run very long.

Intellectual projects of the world arena

Intellectual work may also be analysed in terms of the projects in which it is organized:
the tasks undertaken, the intentions and the way the work evolves in historical time.
Certain intellectual projects are called into existence by the historical process of coloni-
zation, decolonization and globalization.
The first, undertaken by intellectuals of the colonized society, is simply the defence and
preservation of indigenous knowledge and practices, in the chaos and violence of conquest.
The importance and difficulty of this task, and the resilience of the communities doing it,
are shown by stories such as Somerville and Perkins’ (2010) beautiful book Singing the
Coast, based on the memories of one Aboriginal community in northern New South Wales.
The second task is thinking the invasion. However unforeseen colonization is from
the point of view of the colonized – incomprehensible violence being the usual starting
point – all colonized people try to make sense of what has happened to them. Narratives
of events are preserved among the survivors as oral tradition, and sometimes written
down as Somerville and Perkins did.
The picture of the colonizers is not likely to be flattering. Al-Afghani (1881 [1968]),
one of the great Islamic modernizers, understood the British – the superpower in his
world – quite straightforwardly as a band of tyrants and robbers. It is difficult to imagine
Connell 215

any other view being taken by indigenous thinkers of Cortés or Pizarro in the conquest of
Mexico and Peru. Documenting the violence of conquest is still an uncomfortable matter
for settler populations, as shown by right-wing complaints about ‘black armband history’
in Australia, or by the backlash against Hochschild’s (2006) book King Leopold’s Ghost,
which narrated the ghastly massacres of Congolese people by Belgians a century before.
When the conquerors stayed, when the missionaries dug in, the plantations were set
up, the colonial cities were built and the settlers began to reproduce themselves, a third
knowledge project formed. Analysis of colonial and global social orders, not just con-
quest and domination, was required. This has been a huge task, continuing to our day,
and it is shared (though unevenly) across all the intelligentsias of empire.
Among the great works in this genre are José Rizal’s (2006 [1887], 2011 [1891]) two
novels dissecting the corrupt late-colonial society of the Philippines; Solomon Tsekisho
Plaatje’s (1982 [1916]) Native Life in South Africa, on the causes and consequences of
the neo-colonial state’s grab for indigenous communities’ land; Frantz Fanon’s (1967
[1952]) Black Skin, White Masks, on the psychology of racism and colonial identity;
Heleith Saffioti’s (1978 [1969]) Woman in Class Society, a strikingly original analysis of
gender relations in colonial and postcolonial Brasil; Samir Amin’s (1974) Accumulation
on a World Scale, analysing the economics of global capitalism; and Ashis Nandy’s
(1983) The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, which
includes a brilliant account of the dynamics of masculinity in British colonialism.
These remarkable writers did more than analyse colonialism or neocolonialism. Rizal
had an ambivalent relationship with the underground resistance but he was shot by the
Spanish authorities as a subversive and became the national hero. Plaatje was unambigu-
ously the general secretary of the South African Native National Congress, which became
the African National Congress (ANC). Fanon went on to activism in the Algerian war of
independence and to write the enormously influential The Wretched of the Earth. Amin
worked for the postcolonial Nasser regime in Egypt and then was deeply involved in African
development debates. Saffioti was a socialist militant and became an activist against gender
violence. Nandy went on to become one of the leading public intellectuals in India, and a
critic both of the secular developmentalist state and militant Hindu nationalism.
This third project, understanding the new society created by colonialism and neocolo-
nialism, articulating interests and purposes within that society and constructing art and
knowledge from the periphery, is a dynamic project, significantly different from the pres-
ervation of traditions. It means creating theories that have not existed before, or greatly
changing existing theories. The project requires experimentation, boundary-crossing and
risk; it is likely to be interdisciplinary, sometimes radically so. Hau’ofa’s (2008) combi-
nation of social and cultural critique with experimental visual art is a notable example, in
the context of Pacific island society.
The analysis of colonialism therefore leads to problems about knowledge itself, for
these analyses do not generally arise, and are not comfortably contained, within the
knowledge structures of the global metropole. We can thus define a fourth intellectual
project: the reconstruction of knowledge that is set in train by colonialism and decolo-
nization. None of this is simple; indeed, it may be highly controversial. Hountondji
(1983 [1976]) made his reputation with a brilliant critique of ‘African philosophy’,
the genre of writing that purported to discover an ontology in the folk tales, legends,
216 Planning Theory 13(2)

oral poetry and language of African communities. José Mauricio Domingues (2009)
finds similar problems in the treatment of indigenous thought in the contemporary
de-colonial school. Familiar research frameworks are called into question by Linda
Tuhiwai Smith’s (1999) argument for ‘decolonizing methodology’, constructing
social science around the needs, and with the resources, of indigenous communities
in Aotearoa New Zealand.
We also have the continuing problem of dependence and absorption into global cir-
cuits. The central theme of Mbeki’s Architects of Poverty, mentioned above, is the collu-
sion between African elites and transnational capital, resulting in a systematic looting of
the continent. There is no reason to think intellectual workers are immune from such
temptations, even if the economic stakes are smaller.
And yet – the subaltern does speak. If not directly, then in coded ways, through the
subaltern’s impact on the privileged. The secret will out, even in the fears of those who hold
power. From this point of view, the neoliberal audit regime that I mentioned at the start, the
obsessive counting, measuring, ranking and testing that reduces culture and knowledge to
a tightly packaged blancmange, is itself proof of what it seeks to suppress: the tremendous
lurid diversity, the erupting multiplicity, of possible projects of knowledge.

A fifth project has attracted little discussion, but has actually been happening and has
large potential: the application of southern theory and postcolonial perspectives.
Many areas of social science are closely linked with forms of professional or social-
movement practice. It’s not surprising if decolonizing approaches emerge in these
arenas too, and very recently, they have proliferated. Since this is not a well-known
change, I will list the areas in which I know such work has already appeared, and give
a few examples.

Hickling-Hudson (2009, 2011) has a detailed discussion of the uses of southern theory
and recognition of ‘the imperial aftermath’ in teacher education. Epstein and Morrell
(2012) develop the relevance for educational research and policy about gender issues.
Gale (2009) has made the application to higher education.

Meekosha (2011) has made a full-scale postcolonial critique of disability studies, point-
ing out that the majority of disabled people are in the global south and colonialism itself
is massively disabling. Meekosha and Soldatic (2011) apply the critique to ‘human
rights’ discourse and argue for an embodied-social alternative.

Applied psychology
Burns (2008a, 2008b) has applied southern theory to counselling practice and education,
including career development, with suggestions for postcolonial practice in relation to
Connell 217

indigenous culture. There is an older Latin American literature of liberation psychology

(Montero, 2007) in which practice supporting anti-colonial struggle is central.

Youth studies
Nilan (2011) offers a postcolonial critique of the intellectual division of labour in youth
studies, and conceptions of globalization such as the inappropriate generalization of
ideas of individualization.

Social work
Ranta-Tyrkkö (2011) offers a postcolonial critique of orthodox social-work thinking and
training, from a Scandinavian starting point, with discussion of practice in India and
Nordic involvements in the colonial world.

Management studies
Westwood and Jack (2007) offer nothing less than a postcolonial manifesto for manage-
ment studies! – arguing for overthrowing the dominant perspectives in this field.

Development studies
This is where southern perspectives might be expected in strength, and postcolonial critiques
are not lacking (Escobar, 1995). Nevertheless, Schech (2012) shows that northern hegemony
in this field continues, and explores the possibility of an Antipodean perspective within it.

White (2009) examines which global actors’ accounts of criminality count, and develops
a concept of transnational environmental harm. Aas (2012) provides a remarkable syn-
thesis of the geopolitics of criminological knowledge and their consequences.

Not an applied field in quite the same sense, but closely involved with development
policy issues, so I’ll note the vigorous discussion going on about southern perspectives
in geographical knowledge (Parnell and Robinson, 2012) and the implications for, among
other things, mapping (Sidaway, 2012).

Urban studies and planning

Robinson’s (2006) Ordinary Cities has already had a large impact as an alternative to
‘global city’ models. Watson (2008, 2009) argues for refocussing urban planning theory
and practice on the world’s central urban issues, that is, those of the south, requiring a
critique of dominant models in planning.
218 Planning Theory 13(2)

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it shows the scope of discussions already
under way about practical uses of southern and postcolonial perspectives from the social
sciences. It is enough, I hope, to support a few reflections on the possibilities and
In many of these contributions, an important part of the process is a critical unpacking
of mainstream literature in a field of practice – textbooks, established paradigms and
bibliographies – revealing northern dominance of the discourse, and extraversion in the
global south. As well as showing something important about the history of a specific
practical field, this helps explain the persistence of the overall northern-centric pattern of
global knowledge production discussed at the start of this essay. The intellectual hegem-
ony of the metropole has a broad institutional underpinning, including universities but
extending far beyond them into professions, governments, corporations and communi-
ties of practice, creating in these institutions a common-sense in which other logics of
knowledge seem exotic, objectionable or downright crazy.
We cannot oppose this by treating southern theory as if it were a distinct set of propo-
sitions, an alternative paradigm to be erected in opposition to the hegemonic concepts.
We don’t want another system of intellectual dominance. Certainly, there are important
propositions to be advanced from southern perspectives, such as the great importance of
the land for social theory and practice (Agarwal, 1994; Connell, 2007, ch. 9; Davy, 2009;
Maia, 2011). But Epstein and Morrell (2012) put the main point perfectly when they

Southern theory does not exist simply to be picked up and adopted or showcased. It is a
challenge, something that needs to be developed... It is a project that is an integral part of
campaigns for democracy and social justice though it invites fresh, and possibly iconoclastic,
approaches to old problems. (p. 472)

The literature just outlined has many examples of the practical uses of southern per-
spectives in professional or political practice. An excellent example is provided by
Hickling-Hudson’s (2011) discussion of teacher education in Brisbane. Using experience
and stories from Jamaica, Ghana, Malawi, Cuba and mainland America as well as
Australia, she is able to launch students on challenging debates about curriculum and
pedagogy, including the hidden curriculum of mainstream Western education, as well as
aid politics and global history. Similarly, Burns (2008a) discusses White counsellors in
New Zealand learning from Maori culture; Singh (2011) shows how doctoral education
can learn from international students; Schech (2012) discusses changing practices of
development aid, and Fennell and Arnot (2008) and Watson (2008), in very different
fields, discuss practices of researchers.
Thinking at the level of practices helps with a persistent problem about the reception
of intellectual work from the south in mainstream northern settings. When talking about
these issues in northern universities, I have often been asked, in one way or another,
‘What does this add to what we already know?’ The assumptions bear thinking about, but
these questions relate to real issues about curriculum, citation practices and the like. And
it is in practical terms that the issue should be reformulated: ‘What does this ask us to do
that we are not now doing, as knowledge workers?’
Connell 219

The argument for southern theory isn’t mainly about different propositions, but about
different knowledge practices. And what we ask northern intellectuals to do, more than
anything else, is start learning in new ways, and in new relationships. This is vigorously
argued by McFarlane (2006) in a notable exploration of the creative learning possibilities
between north and south, contesting the usual models of ‘knowledge transfer’ and the
epistemic and institutional bases of north/south divisions. Encouraging such learning is
the practical purpose of my storytelling in Southern Theory.
Applications in practice have a further consequence: they have intellectual effects,
and lead back to theory. In their very different fields, the explorations of practice by Aas
(2012), Watson (2008) and Meekosha and Soldatic (2011) pose profound questions for
theorists and researchers in the ‘pure’ social sciences on which criminology, urban plan-
ning and disability studies draw – including questions about the nature and scale of social
violence, the contemporary role of the state and the nature of social embodiment. Fields
of critique are also up for change: as Parnell and Robinson (2012) show, the familiar
critiques of global neoliberalism by northern intellectuals need rethinking from the south.

In conclusion
Changing the practices of knowledge workers is not easy; it needs organized support as well
as convincing argument. The South–South dialogues that have occurred in the last two
decades – episodic and uncertain as they are – therefore seem of great importance. They
include dialogues around indigenous knowledge, and links among southern knowledge insti-
tutions such as Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
(CODESRIA) and El Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (CLACSO).
Transnational feminist and environmental movements have produced multiple networks and
forums. There are connections around the World Social Forum and even through United
Nations forums. There are imaginative adventures such as the Russian/Argentine comparison
of post-authoritarian transition recently published by Laboratorium (Heredia and Kirtchik,
2010), and the international project of rethinking social transformation led by Santos (2007).
The literature on southern theory and the decolonization of knowledge mentioned at
the start of this article is connected with these moves. Global reviews of fields of knowl-
edge that give attention to work around the periphery have been multiplying (e.g. Burawoy
et al., 2010; Patel, 2010). Specific sites such as and
the International Sociological Association’s lively
These initiatives are still on a limited scale. They are, perhaps, important as indica-
tions of what is possible. The structural differences between metropole and periphery,
and between rich and poor in the periphery, remain important. They still shape the forma-
tion of intelligentsias, their resources and the conditions of their work. The multiple
knowledge projects that arise in the world social order are also shaped by global struc-
tures. But they are in an important sense open-ended, and can be shared by intellectual
workers who have different structural positions. In that sense, despite all the modern
mechanisms of high-technology surveillance and cultural control, a far more democratic
agenda for knowledge formation on a world scale has now become possible. It is up to
us now to find practical ways of educating, resourcing and sustaining the workforces
who can make it real.
220 Planning Theory 13(2)

I am very grateful to Rebecca Pearse, whose professionalism and imagination as research assistant
underpin key parts of this article.

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Connell 223

Author biography
Raewyn Connell is University Professor at the University of Sydney, a Fellow of the Academy
of Social Sciences in Australia, and one of Australia’s leading social scientists. Her most recent
books are Confronting Equality (2011), about social science and politics; Gender: In World Per-
spective (2009); and Southern Theory (2007), about social thought from the postcolonial world.
Her other books include Masculinities, Schools & Social Justice, Ruling Class Ruling Culture,
Gender & Power, and Making the Difference. Her work has been translated into sixteen languages.
She has taught at universities in Australia, Canada and the USA, in departments of sociology,
political science, and education. A long-term participant in the labour movement and peace move-
ment, Raewyn has tried to make social science relevant to social justice. Details at website: www.