2017 Winner of the Australian International Political Economy Network (AIPEN) — Richard Higgott Journal Article Prize
Alternatives and Futures: Cultures, Practices, Activism and Utopias

Modern Colonial Geographies in Latin America

by Adam David Morton on December 13, 2017

Modern Colonial Geographies in Latin America: The Mirage of the Civilising City and the Archaic Countryside

“Wanting to be modern seems crazy:
we are condemned to be so,
given that the future and the past
are prohibited” — Octavio Paz (1966: 5)

Invitation to International Workshop

The production of colonial landscapes has affected the ways in which ‘modern’ space is imagined, narrated, and exploited. Moreover, the materiality of colonial and postcolonial practices has further contributed to shape hierarchical relationships across Latin American societies. As a result, urban and rural spaces, rather than being thought of as linear and dualistic forms, seem to constitute a contradictory and problematic relationship.

The workshop encourages to engage with social, political, and cultural aspects which are capable of reflecting upon the complexity of Latin America’s rural and urban geographies. On the one hand, the continent has been traditionally imagined as a rural space due to both its essential role as world exporter of primary resources and to its formidable peasantry struggles in the twentieth century. On the other hand, paradoxically, ever since the colonial period, cities have represented the core of the social and political organization, eventually becoming a strategic tool to ‘modernize’ and ‘civilize’ the postcolonial countries. This controversial urban/rural relationship was originally investigated in the 1960s and 1970s by the ‘Dependency Theory’ thinkers, who analyzed the dramatic growth experienced by Latin American cities from the beginning of the twentieth century onwards (Quijano 1967, 1977; Schteingart 1973; Cardoso 1975; Hardoy 1975). However, over the last decades, such systematic approach to the urban/rural question seems to have lost its centrality, even in those studies which critically investigated Latin America such as, but not only, ‘Postcolonial’ (Rodríguez 2001; Rivera Cusicanqui et al. 2010) and ‘Decolonial’ Studies (Dussel 1995; Lander 2000; Quijano 2000, Mignolo 2000; Escobar 2004).

As Mignolo suggests, the visibility of the ‘colonial difference’ emerges with the independence movements from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries (Mignolo 2000: 36). The myth of modernity appears when the Western hemisphere became something in itself – capitalism and modernity appear to emerge from Europe becoming the center of the world – and the colonized periphery re-emerges, in its redemptive sacrifice, as civilization (Dussel, 1993: 65). This intricate violent relation between the core and the periphery, between colonial violence and modern space, was foundational in articulating the new global geographies of power. The workshop invites to discuss these ‘colonial grounds’ (Machado Aráoz 2014) which characterize the modern experience of the entangled geographies of urban and rural Latin America. This approach aims to move beyond the binary division between rural and urban studies, exploring instead their connected emergence and dialectical transformation within colonial and postcolonial systems of power. Through discourses and material enactments the workshop attempts to recover the historical foundations of modernity and its contested contemporary forms and investigate how colonial relationships become spatialized in Latin American territories.

The event aims to gather early scholars and PhD students and discuss the proposed themes. The workshop’s objective is to organize a special issue to be published in a journal relevant to the field. The organization will provide grants (8 to 12, up to €500) to cover part of the expenses. To be considered for a grant, please write a few lines justifying your request when submitting an abstract. There is no registration fee.

The workshop welcomes contributions from any critical perspective and focuses on three main areas:

(a) Infrastructures and systems of circulation: between weaves and grids, movements and fixity. This section focuses on how materiality affects the production of space and social relations (Blomley 2007; Federici 2004; Katz 1998). We ask how these material devices are used for resistance under extractive capitalism? And historically what devices have managed to discipline population and how they have been transfigured?

(b) Extractive geographies: the docile city and the violent countryside. This section is interested in exploring the dilemmas of environmental degradation and development (Gudynas, 2009). We are interested in exploring the changing relation between urban and rural discourses under the expansion of extractive capitalism (Gago & Mezzadra 2015; Webber 2015; Svampa 2013).

(c) Citying failure: architecture as colonial violence and its resistance. This section considers a broad range of architecture topics, from subaltern modern forms of livelihoods to historical role of colonial and global city ports (Codebò 2015; Gordillo 2017; McGuirk 2014) in relation to urban/rural planning. We explore the narratives and strategies which have been shaping Latin American urban geographies

● For details on the call for papers go to https://moderncolonialgeographies.wordpress.com/

● The format of the workshop will consist of a paper presentation (20min) followed by a collective discussion (10min).

How to apply

● We welcome submissions of abstracts of no more than 500 words to be sent to Mara Duer and Simone Vegliò tomoderncolonialgeographies@gmail.com by 17st December 2017.

● If accepted, full papers must be submitted by 1st March 2018

● The workshop is funded by: The Academy of Global Humanities and Critical Theory (http://aghct.org/), promoted by University of Bologna, Duke University, University of Virginia.

● Organizers: Mara Duer (University of Warwick), Simone Vegliò (King’s College London)


Cited bibliography

Blomley, N. (2007). Making Private Property: Enclosure, Common Right and the Work of Hedges. Rural History. 18(1): 1-21.

Cardoso, F. (1975). The City and Politics (pp.157-190). In Hardoy, J.E. (Ed.). (1975). Urbanization in Latin  America, Approaches and Issues. Garden City, New York, Anchor Books.

Codebò, A. (2015). La ciudad escenográfica: centro y margen en Buenos Aires. Amérique Latine Histoire et Mémoire. Les Cahiers ALHIM (29).

Dussel, E. (1993). Eurocentrism and modernity (Introduction to the Frankfurt Lectures). boundary 2, 20(3), 65-76.Dussel, E. (1995). The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of “the other” and the myth of modernity. New York, Continuum.

Escobar, A. (2004). Más allá del Tercer Mundo: Globalidad imperial, colonialidad global y movimientos sociales anti-globalización. Nómadas (20): 86-100.

Federici, S. (2004). Caliban and the Witch. New York, Autonomedia.

Gago, V. & Mezzadra, S. (2015). Para una crítica de las operaciones extractivas del capital: patrón de acumulación y luchas sociales en el tiempo de la financiarización. Nueva sociedad, (255), 38-52.

Gordillo, G. (2017, Forthcoming). The Metropolis: The Infrastructure of Empire. In Hetherington, K. (Ed.), Infrastructures, Environment and Life in the Anthropocene. Durham: Duke University Press.

Gudynas, E. (2012). La Crisis Global y el Capitalismo Benévolo de la Nueva Izquierda Criolla (pp.85-102). In: Renunciar al Bien Común. Extractivismo y (pos)desarrollo en América Latina. Buenos Aires: Mardulce.

Hardoy, J. (Ed.). (1975). Urbanization in Latin America, Approaches and Issues. Anchor Press, New York.
Katz, C. (1998). Whose Nature, whose culture? (pp.45-62). In Braun, B. & Castree, N. (Eds.). Remaking reality. London, Routledge.

Lander, E. (Ed.). (2000). La colonialidad del saber: eurocentrismo y ciencias sociales. Perspectivas latinoamericanas. Caracas, IESALC.

Machado Aráoz, H. (2014). Potosi, el origen. Genealogía de la minería contemporánea. Buenos Aires, Mardulce.
McGuirk, J. (2014). Radical cities: Across Latin America in search of a new architecture. London: Verso.

Mignolo, W. (2000). Local histories and global designs: coloniality, border thinking and subaltern knowledges. Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Paz, Octavio (1966) “Prólogo” in Poesía en movimiento, México 1915-1966, México, Siglo XXI.

Quijano, A. (1967). Urbanización, cambio social y dependencia. América Latina. Ensayos de interpretación sociológica. Santiago do Chile, Editorial Universitaria.Quijano, A. (1977). Dependencia, urbanización y cambio social en Latinoamérica. Lima, Mosca Azul Editores.

Quijano, A. (2000). Coloniality of power and Eurocentrism in Latin America. Nepantla, 1(3): 533-580.

Rivera Cusicanqui, S., Hinderer, M., Creischer, A., and Siekmann, A. (2010) Principio Potosí. ¿Cómo podemos cantar el canto del señor en tierra ajena? (Guide Exhibition) Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.

Rodríguez, I. (Ed.) (2001). The Latin American Subaltern Studies Reader. Durham, Duke University Press.

Schteingart, M. (Ed.). (1973). Urbanización y dependencia en América Latina. Buenos Aires, Ediciones Siap.

Svampa, M. (2013). «Consenso de los Commodities» y lenguajes de valoración en América Latina. Nueva sociedad, 244: 30-46.

Webber, J. (2015). The indigenous community as “living organism”: José Carlos Mariátegui, Romantic Marxism, and extractive capitalism in the Andes. Theory and Society, 44(6): 575–598.

Adam David Morton
Adam David Morton is Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. He is author of Unravelling Gramsci: Hegemony and Passive Revolution in the Global Political Economy (2007); Revolution and State in Modern Mexico: The Political Economy of Uneven Development (2011), recipient of the 2012 Book Prize of the British International Studies Association (BISA) International Political Economy Group (IPEG); and co-author of Global Capitalism, Global War, Global Crisis (2018) with Andreas Bieler. He co-edits Progress in Political Economy (PPE) with Gareth Bryant that was the recipient of the 2017 International Studies Association (ISA) Online Media Caucus Award for the Best Blog (Group) and the 2018 International Studies Association (ISA) Online Media Caucus Award for Special Achievement in International Studies Online Media.

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