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The (im)possibility of Southern theory: the opportunities and challenges of cultural brokerage in co-producing knowledge about China-Africa relations

Mohan, Giles; Lampert, Ben; Tan-Mullins, May and Atta-Ankomah, Richmond (2019). The (im)possibility of Southern theory: the opportunities and challenges of cultural brokerage in co-producing knowledge about China-Africa relations. In: Mawdsley, Emma; Fourie, Elsje and Nauta, Wiebe eds. Researching South-South Development Cooperation: The Politics of Knowledge Production. Rethinking Development. Routledge, pp. 12–26.

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Abstract

A decade of researching China–Africa relations has been constructive but also frustrating, because the production of critical analysis has been dominated by researchers based in the ‘West’ despite a desire for co-produced knowledge. Using a series of ethnographic reflections from our research, we examine the possibilities of taking on board, but moving beyond, Connell’s critique of ‘Southern theory’. Connell argues that theory production about the global South tends to be extractive with Western epistemologies framing ‘legitimate’ knowledge. Producing theory that reflects Southern concerns and needs is not about inverting this bias but takes place through production of ‘connected’ knowledges in the sense that Bhambra invokes. She sees social reality in the global South as always constructed from historical and spatial connections and so analysis can proceed by recognizing such connectedness in building theory. This connectedness that involves an increasingly globalized China, and, arguably, greater scope for African agency, ‘ruffles’ some of the spatial categories and power relations implicit in much postcolonial theory. Methodologically it speaks to the need for cultural brokerage that attempts to straddle and connect peoples, places and epistemologies, albeit without ever escaping the established power hierarchies of knowledge production. It also forces us to consider the political economy of research across different national settings, which shape how scholars relate.

Item Type: Book Section
ISBN: 0-429-45914-9, 978-0-429-45914-6
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
The politics of Chinese engagement with African 'development': Case studies of Angola and GhanaES/E018408/1ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
A comparative analysis of Chinese migrant integration in West Africa (XD-08-075-GM)ES/G035318/1ESRC Economic and Social Research Council
China and Africa Research ProgrammeES/M004066/1ESRC Economic and Social Research Council
Keywords: China-Africa relations; South-South relations; cultural brokerage; 'Southern' theory; research methodology; Ghana; Nigeria; Sudan
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Politics, Philosophy, Economics, Development, Geography > Development
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Politics, Philosophy, Economics, Development, Geography
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Research Group: International Development & Inclusive Innovation
Innovation, Knowledge & Development research centre (IKD)
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Item ID: 59562
Depositing User: Ben Lampert
Date Deposited: 08 Mar 2019 16:24
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2019 16:39
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/59562
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