The “Global South” has become shorthand for the world of non-European, postcolonial peoples. Synonymous with uncertain development, unorthodox economies, failed states, and nations fraught with corruption, poverty, incivility, and strife, it is that half of the world about which the “Global North” spins theories. Rarely the “Global South” is seen as a source of theory and explanation for world historical events. Yet, as many nation-states of the Northern Hemisphere experience increasing fiscal meltdown, state privatization, corruption, ethnic conflict, and other crises, it seems as though they are evolving southward, so to speak, in both positive and problematic ways. Is this so? How? In what measure?
Anthropologists Jean and John Comaroff take on these questions, reversing the usual order of things. Drawing on their long experience of living in Africa and teaching in Europe and the U.S., they address a range of familiar themes—democracy, law, national borders, labor and capital, religion and the occult, liberalism and multiculturalism—with the imagination and agile prose for which they are well known. They ask how we might understand these things anew with theory developed in the South. Their ethnographic eye stresses the salience of the local without losing sight of the large-scale processes in everyday lives that are everywhere enmeshed. This view from the South renders key problems of our time at once strange and familiar, giving an ironic twist to the evolutionary pathways long assumed by social scientists.
“In this major transdisciplinary work, the Comaroffs (both anthropologists, Univ. of Chicago) have produced a well-crafted, nuanced, and sophisticated intervention in the meanings, limits, and Eurocentric underpinnings of modernity…The book is a welcome addition in debunking the Eurocentric binary between the ‘rational’ West and not so rational ‘non-West’ and provides a refreshing insight into what the ‘South’ has to offer in framing the future of the global human community. Theory from the South is not only ‘from the South’ but also ‘of’ and ‘about the South.’ The book further enhances the reputation of the Comaroffs as formidable critical intellectuals of the first order. Beautifully done. Essential.”
-–CHOICE December 2011 Vol. 49 No. 04
"Jean and John Comaroff put forward their case in the strongest possible terms, and they do so with flair, eloquence, and brilliance: that Africa in particular and the Global South more broadly are in the vanguard of world history, generative of global futures and theory to match. This is a book that will be read and debated with vigor and profit."
--Charles Piot, Duke University