Spotlight: Global South

Bruce Mutsvairo, Curator

The ‘Global South’ as a concept has courted controversy in some disciplines because of its supposed susceptibility to subservience as well as its association with equally depreciatory terms such as “Developing World” or “Third World”. Several scholars have associated these terms with colonial conquest and deep-seated exploitation (See Sajed, 2020; Smith, 2017). However, beyond being seen as a bedrock for underdevelopment (Dados and Connell, 2012), using a term like the ‘Global South’ offers an opportunity to uncover, embrace, and exploit the diverse sociopolitical, historical, methodological and theoretical groundings that the region offers, presenting multiple prospects for intellectual dialogue and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

I have a considerable degree of sympathy for scholarship that supports the use of the term the ‘Global South’, because murmurings of colonial or capitalist dispensation should not stop us from seeking ways through which we could all learn from our past and present. Better still, the fact that other researchers have linked Global South to the expansion of neoliberalism hence the need for new markets of production (e.g. Prashad, 2012) does not mean the term’s equally empowering emancipatory prospects should be wished away. The Global South, united mostly through the common history of coloniality, has long been a site of transformation, hegemonic resistance but also progressive politics. The emergence of South-South relations as a springboard for knowledge sharing on important issues of today including climate change and sustainable peace cannot be overemphasized. The benefactors of such knowledge exchanges go beyond Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Arab World and parts of Asia and Oceania, the world regions primarily associated with the Global South. For example, findings from the latest World Press Freedom rankings, which examines the state of journalism in 180 countries, ranks Costa Rica, Jamaica and Namibia above the United Kingdom and the United States (Reporters Without Borders, 2022).

Neither should the use of the term be seen as support for potential claims for geographic determinism or an endorsement for past and present exploitation, marginalization or oppression of certain individuals, groups, cultures or nations. As uniquely captured by Martin and Dandekar (2021)’s recent volume, the Global South has lately become a widely accepted term or concept that has been embraced by both Western and non-Western scholars. Moreover, research framing using the Global South as a concept is also enjoying a massive rise in the field of international politics despite the socio-economic marginalization historically associated with the region, posit Haug et. al (2021). Also, a long list of scholars who have established themselves studying Global South heuristics over the years including Marlea Clarke (2018), Gayatri Spivak (2008) and Anne Garland Mahler (2018), just to name a few, have also accepted its universal use. In fact, it has become inadequate to measure the real impact or meaningfulness of Western research without openly embracing or giving a voice to scholarship from the Global South (D’Cruz, Noronha and Katiyar, 2021; Mutsvairo, Bebawi and Borges-Rey, 2019). Using some of these perspectives as a point of departure, this new OBO spotlights research from/about the Global South seeking to illuminate our knowledge and multidisciplinary orientations about growing academic scholarship focused on non-Western societies.

Bruce Mutsvairo


  • Global South

    “Critical scholarship that falls under the rubric Global South is invested in the analysis of the formation of a Global South subjectivity, the study of power and racialization within global capitalism in ways that transcend the nation-state as the unit of comparative analysis, and in tracing contemporary South-South relations—or relations among subaltern groups across national, linguistic, racial, and ethnic lines—as well as the histories of those relations in prior forms of South-South exchange.”-Anne Garland Mahler

  • Developing World

    “The “developing world” has been proposed and used in reference to those regions of the world that are held to be lesser developed with respect to urbanization and industrialization. The root term “develop” is itself problematic, in that it suggests related terms such as “progress” or “improvement.” Consequently, the phrase “developing world” indicates a region that falls short of certain benchmarks of progress or development.”-James A. Tyner

  • The Arab Diaspora in Brazil

    “The Arab diaspora in Brazil refers to the movement of people from countries with Arab populations to Brazil, a process that began in the last decades of the 19th century and reached its height during the years leading up to WWI and the subsequent dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.;- Silvia C. Ferreira

  • Politics of Southern Africa

    “Southern Africa comprises the ten countries of Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The region shares many of the same experiences of precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial rule as other regions in sub-Saharan Africa.; -Carolyn M. Somerville

  • Middle East

    “The early 20th century is a critical moment for children in the Middle East because it is at this point that the state begins to usurp the family in teaching children values and behaviors. Studies on children and youth in contemporary Middle Eastern society generally analyze the challenges and pitfalls faced by international and domestic aid organizations.”-Heidi Morrison

  • Participatory Action Research

    “Participatory action research (PAR) represents an epistemological framework, pedagogical approach, research methodology, and process for collaborative social action. PAR processes connect research, education, and action with the aim of addressing inequities to achieve social justice and societal transformation. ”-Dana E. Wright

  • Modernity and Decoloniality

    “To say “modernity and decoloniality” is to name in a colonial way the project that is being decolonized. Modernity/(de)coloniality are complex, heterogeneous, and historical structural concepts. ”-Walter D. Mignolo

  • Indigenous Politics and Representation in Latin America

    “There is surprisingly limited political science scholarship on indigenous political participation and representation in Latin America, per se. While research on Latin America’s indigenous peoples has experienced a boom in recent years—and has long been a staple among anthropologists and sociologists—most of that work takes a decidedly cultural, rather than institutional, approach.”-Miguel Centellas

  • Arabic Language and Literature

    “While all Muslims are required to pray in Arabic, they use their native languages to communicate among themselves, and to read and write. Some of those languages, Farsi, Urdu, and Pashtun, to cite only a few, are written in the Arabic script to this day;- Aida Bamia

  • British Colonial Rule in Sub-Saharan Africa

    “The British Empire in Africa went through several distinct phases. From the heyday of the Atlantic slave trade to the mid-19th century, the British imperial presence was limited to a small handful of trading forts on the West African coast, the seizure of the Cape Colony from the Dutch, and a protectorate over the Sultanate of Zanzibar.;-Timothy H. Parsons



  • Clarke M. (2018). Global South: what does it mean and why use the term? Global South Political Commentaries. University of Victoria;
  • Dados N and Connell R. (2012). The Global South. Contexts 11 (1) 12-12;
  • D’Cruz P, Noronga E and Katiyar S. (2021). Meaningfulness and Impact of Academic Research. Bringing the Global South to the Forefront. Business and Society 61 (4) 839-844;
  • Haug S, Braveboy-Wagner and Maihold G. (2021). The Global South in the study of World Politics: Examining a meta category. Third World Quarterly. 42 (9) 1923-1944;
  • Mahler, A.G. (2018). From the Tricontinental to the Global South: Race, Radicalism, and Transnational Solidarity. Durham: Duke University Press;
  • Martin S.B and Dandekar (2021). Global South Scholars in the Western Academy. Harnessing Unique Experiences, Knowledges and Positionality in the Third Space. London: Routledge;
  • Mutsvairo B, Bebawi S and Borges-Rey, E (2020). Data Journalism in the Global South (Eds). London: Palgrave Macmillan;
  • Prashad, V. (2012). The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South, Verso. Reporters Without Boarders (2022). World Press Freedom Index: A new Era of Polarization;
  • Sajed, A. (2020). From Third World to the Global South. E-International Relations;
  • Smith J. (2017). The Global South in Global Crisis. Journal of Labor and Society 20 (2) 161-184.
  • Spivak, G.C. (2008). Other Asias. Blackwell Publishing

Featured image credit: Photo by Kingj123 via Wikimedia Commons

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