Subaltern cosmopolitanism: pedagogies of transnational activism in the global south

Year: 2021

Author: Joel, Windle

Type of paper: Symposium

This paper reports on how transnational activist networks are established and maintained through the production and circulation of texts, ideas and people, considered here as a type of subaltern or grass-roots cosmopolitanism. The notion of cosmopolitanism itself suggests a universal openness, however it is often used to refer to middle-class and elite cultural encounters, in addition to being bereft of political dimensions. By contrast, theorists in the decolonial tradition have argued for an understanding of intercultural encounters between the global north and global south as inevitably unequal, and promoted a kind of critical solidarity amongst subaltern groups as a politically empowering type of cosmopolitanism. This strategy of south-south encounter has been termed "transmodernity" By Dussell (2012) and, in work I have undertaken with Brazilian colleagues, it has been theorised in terms of a "transperipheral paradigm" (Windle et al., 2020). Taking the example of the urban peripheries of Rio de Janeiro, the paper examines how local activists connect their work through community journalism, translation, educational activities, and contacts with formal educational institutions, including through a partnership with the author's university. This activist work is aimed at challenging state violence and promoting human rights, including through transnational movements such as Black Lives Matter, which has had local manifestations and repercussions. This type of work is analysed as a space of public pedagogy, and is also investigated in terms of the potential for the adaptation of texts produced in subaltern cosmopolitan networks for use in classrooms. Examples of the development of curriculum materials are discussed at the conclusion of the paper. Methodologically, the paper draws on strategies from urban and linguistic anthropology, including long-term field participant-observation in the Viradouro Favela Complex, in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. Connections to Australian, US and South African settings are also discussed in relation to current organising around racial justice.