Where is the North?: Southern Ruptures in Decolonizing Theory

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Calls for decolonizing theory, knowledge, methods, and the university have taken hold of academia. However, critics have pointed out that these projects are primarily located in the global North and distanced from actual political struggles. This paper proposes a way to disaggregate different elements of the North and evaluate the “decolonization” potential in relation to broader anticolonial political geographies. We define the North as an orientation toward the capitalist-colonial world and Northness as a relational property along three axes of geographical location, social position, and institutional vocation. Applying this, we review historic trends in decolonization thought by using a stylistic scheme of three southern ruptures: resistance to colonial conquest, postcolonial arrivals into the Northern academy, and transnational convergence. This analytical lens cautions against giving primacy to issues of marginalized social position over geographic location and institutional vocation, while also offering a political economic focus on postcolonial engagements with anticolonial politics. We call for attending to the current conjuncture characterized by increasing decolonial discourse alongside southern ruination by aligning epistemic endeavors with social movement struggle.