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The Meanings of the (Global) South From a Latin American Perspective  

Élodie Brun

The concept of the Global South receives much attention and study, but not all perspectives are equally visible. Scholars who work on the topic from Latin America are still largely ignored. The definitions they propose are eclectic in their sources and inclusive and flexible as far as epistemological and ontological issues are concerned. They agree that the concept, whether named with the adjective “global” or not, serves to denote a set of actors characterized by high diversity but unified by their unfavorable position in the world, as they suffer from global asymmetries. Studying and centering the Global South means revising the chronology of global history to understand these actors’ specific trajectories. However, Latin American scholars differ regarding the role of the state and the scope of their critical views. Most of them consider the state an important actor of the Global South, but critical authors argue that civil society and academia are more important for promoting change. Some of them reflect on how to improve the early 21st-century system, whereas others explicitly promote visions of emancipation from it. In most cases, when researchers reflect on the usefulness of the (Global) South concept, their concern includes dissatisfaction with the adjective “global.” Their reflection leads them to propose alternative, mainly state-centered expressions that aim to enhance the agency of the (Global) South, such as the self-designated South, geopolitical South, and relational South. The plural meanings of the (Global) South reveal the political and sometimes idealistic aspirations associated with it in Latin American contributions. As such, the concept cannot be dissociated from its potential for political mobilization.