Bewixt and Between: Web Spaces and Southern Theories

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 303
Oral Presentation
Bandana PURKAYASTHA , University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT
Traditionally, the dominant forms of sociology have been based on the assumption that theories were generated in the north while the global south contributed-mostly confirmatory-cases.  Many scholars have challenged this assumption though, given the political economy of knowledge systems, their perspectives have not, as yet, shaken up some of the core orthodoxies in the metropole.  At the same time,  sociologists who are in tune with theory-making and well-developed knowledge systems in different parts of the world are aware of co-existing frameworks that describe diverse social realities.  Some of these co-existing frameworks have been identified and described as Southern theories, indigenous theories etc.  I have been a significant beneficiary of different frameworks, especially of the ways it challenges easy generalizations.

In this paper however, I raise another issue.  To what extent are our theories reflective of social lives beyond our tangible geographical moorings? Ethno-sociological theories (Connell, 2007) reflect embedded hierarchies (including knowledge hierarchies) within nation-states and between nation-states.  At the same time social life on web-spaces—for instance, our political organizing, culture making, doing of families, as well as structuring of political-economies or surveillance through global security blocks—has become a rapidly expanding temporal and spatial realm, enmeshing sections of populations to greater or lesser extents.  This space offers multiple and simultaneous opportunities to disengage with some structures, while becoming subjects of others, while enmeshing us in systems of power that are neither contained within national boundaries, nor apart from them.  How do we configure power as we talk about ‘intersectionality’ or ‘transnationalism’ if we take these spaces into account?  I offer some examples of using Southern theories, in my own work and those of others as a way to demonstrate that many Southern theories are better positioned to explain and mark the pathways of power that are shaping new hierarchies.