Since the mid-twentieth century, the term “third world” has been used to represent the group of countries considered underdeveloped, generally located in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The expression was created by the French economist Alfred Sauvy, who, based on his observation of the countries of the world, noted the existence of a huge political, economic, and social disparity among nations, leaving many of them marginalized on the world stage. However, scholars of the 21st century indicate that, after the end of the cold war, and especially in the current political and sociological context in which we live, new conceptions of the divisions in the world are being built and established.
In a solid partnership with the University of Tübingen, the UFF, through its Graduate Program in Communication (PPGCOM) has been developing studies on a new perspective in world geopolitics: the idea of the Global South. “This concept is dynamic and tries to account for the complexities and contradictions that are observed in the world. It has become a way of criticizing the powers and systems, particularly the colonialist one, which, for centuries and until today, produce and legitimize knowledge and ways of life,” explains Fernando Resende, a PPGCOM professor and researcher on the subject.
The cooperation between the educational institutions arose from the common interest in discussing this new conception. PPGCOM coordinator, professor Felipe Trotta, explains that the invitation for the partnership came in 2014. “The German university called us to participate in a project that also included educational institutions from Mexico, South Africa, India, and Senegal. In 2015, Professor Fernando began coordinating the first UFF research in partnership with Tübingen. Since then, the cooperation yields us significant international insertions and promotes an intense exchange between teachers and students from both universities,” he highlights.
Issues related to structural racism, gender issues, and intersectional perspectives with which we are having to deal more effectively, gain a lot when we start to contextualize their effects from territoriality – the Global South – that for centuries has suffered from plundering, pillaging, and objectification of the body of the other. The whole discussion about the indigenous genocide and the enslavement process of the African subject, for example, gains critical and very significant contours when discussed in the light of a ‘south’ that is shaped by the power logics determined by agents of a so-called ‘north’.
The first conversations came about because of an article on the “Global South” that Fernando published in an English journal. “I began a dense investigation into this concept, which was a research path I had already been on, and which became more solid with the collaboration with Tübingen. The first joint project was Literary Cultures of the Global South (2015-2018). Currently, the research projects Uncomfortable Territories: narratives, images, and objects of the Global South and Conflict, media, and territory in the Global South are underway. In addition to the partnership with other international institutions, the projects have the important cooperation of the Graduate Program in Anthropology (PPGA),” points out the researcher.
PPGCOM doctoral student Verônica Lima, who is preparing for a sandwich internship at the German university, is an example of the expansion of exchange possibilities that the partnership encourages. “My research makes a critique of the model of society that was constituted in the West and installed itself from the world racialization. In the process of this analysis, the idea of the ‘Global South’ is fundamental, as it refers to a set of experiences directly marked by the colonial event. In the exchange with Tübingen, I will be able to deepen the studies related to the concept of temporality and its intersections with the issue of territoriality and, consequently, its influences on sociocultural relations in southern countries,” she says.
Since the beginning of the partnership in 2015, the institutions participating in Global South studies have annually held the International Forum on Global South Studies. This meeting updates the discussions that the institutions have developed, besides enabling the dialogue between different researchers. “We organize round tables that bring together representatives from different institutions so that their work and reflections can enter into dialogue, something that has proven extremely productive. UFF is present in a strong way, as it has been in recent years, through the active presence of professors and students from PPGCOM and PPGA. In 2021, the forum will take place in hybrid form, online and physical, between June 29th and July 9th,” informs Fernando Resende.
Besides events, theoretical discussions, publications in books, articles, and several theses and dissertations defended and related to the projects, an important result of this cooperation was the creation of “TRAVESSIA – Global South Studies and Research Center,” promoted by PPGCOM. In 2021, it completes one year of activities and currently houses not only professors, masters, and doctoral students of PPGCOM, but also researchers from other institutions, linked to projects in partnership with the University of Tübingen. Likewise, the German institution has a study center dedicated to the theme, which favors cooperation, including with other institutions and areas.
Fernando emphasizes that a transdisciplinary perspective is important for the theoretical discussion of TRAVESSIA and points to the need to include research from other fields of knowledge. “Communication is one of the possibilities, but the idea is that the center aggregates diverse areas that focus on discussions related to the concept of the Global South, treading a path of intersections of different spheres of knowledge,” he explains. According to him, locally, a dialogue has already begun with researchers from the anthropology and medicine courses at UFF.
The debate about the Global South crosses many areas of knowledge, integrates disciplines and departments all over the world. In addition to the inter-institutional master’s degree, we are seeking to expand cooperation, with more intense contacts being made with partners in Mexico and Senegal. There are many projects and challenges that arise from the collaboration with Tübingen, the matrix of one of the axes of the internationalization of UFF. However, to continue opening discussions in this field of study and training top researchers in the area, it is also necessary to think about strategies regarding the current scenario of investment in research in the country.
Between November 2020 and February this year, the international partnership was solidified by offering the course Uncomfortable Territories and Decolonial Processes: Diaspora, Slavery, and Mediatization of the Colonial Malaise, which was taught by several professors involved in the project. “The subject was simultaneously offered to students located in three continents – Latin America, Europe, and Africa. This experience proved to be fundamental to consolidate, increase and complexify UFF’s internationalization process,” guarantees the researcher.
The PPGCOM coordinator, professor Felipe Trotta, announces that, at this moment, the Universidade Federal Fluminense and the University of Tübingen are dialoguing about the implementation of an inter-institutional master’s degree with double titling in both educational institutions. “It is important to highlight that the partnership with UFF has guaranteed significant advances also for the German institution. Its Roman Literature department has greatly improved as a result of this project, inaugurating a Master’s in Global South, as well as a specific course on Brazilian culture entitled João Guimarães Rosa.”
Felipe points out that, currently, the challenge is to maintain the flow of collaborations in a context of reduced funding for research in Brazil. “The debate about the Global South crosses many areas of knowledge, integrates disciplines and departments all over the world. Besides the inter-institutional master’s degree, we are seeking to expand cooperation, with more intense contacts being made with partners in Mexico and Senegal. There are many projects and challenges that arise from the collaboration with Tübingen, the matrix of one of the axes of the internationalization of UFF. However, to continue opening discussions in this field of study and training top researchers in the area, it is also necessary to think about strategies regarding the current scenario of investment in research in the country.”
The concept of the Global South and the geopolitical complexity of today’s world
According to Fernando Resende, the notion of the Global South has undoubtedly succeeded the end of the tripartite conceptual division – first, second and third world. The concept updates what was previously called the “third world”. “Until the beginning of the 21st century, the planet was segmented between rich and poor. However, spatial reconfigurations, new dynamics, and ways of life force us to think of the world in more complex terms. Technological advances and the globalization process have brought to the surface this new conception, which puts into question both the idea of ‘global’ as a system that seeks homogenizations, and the idea of ‘south’ as a paradox more complex than the geographic map and the Equator could indicate,” he describes.
Regarding Latin America in particular, the researcher assures that these studies have been fundamental to understanding the policies that have founded and shaped the continent. “Issues related to structural racism, gender issues, and the intersectional perspectives with which we are having to deal more effectively, gain a lot when we begin to contextualize their effects from territoriality – the Global South – that for centuries has suffered from despoliation, plundering, and objectification of the body of the other. The whole discussion about the indigenous genocide and the enslavement process of the African subject, for example, gains criticisms and very significant contours when discussed in the light of a ‘south’ that is shaped by the power logics determined by agents of a so-called ‘north’,” he alerts.
For Fernando, deepening the studies on this theme means producing more reflections, besides building theoretical and methodological apparatuses that collaborate with the confrontation of the dilemmas that present themselves in a world that is no longer divided in two. “Today, the idea of the Global South tries to account for the contradictions in which the world lives. In this way, South and North are not thought of in a binary sense, strictly as divisors, but from the perspective that they are part of logics of power that reinforce instituted dynamics, and therefore need constant re-evaluation,” he concludes.