Who is your global South feminism serving?

We are sitting in her kitchen as she mixes ingredients for the dumplings we will soon fill, then pinch together to seal at their tops, and steam. As the mix of vegetables reaches full cooking point, she takes the handle of the heavy saucepan by both hands and begins to toss its contents expertly. The face she makes – a mix between a scowl and deep concentration – is one I recognise easily from watching my mother cook.

As she tells me more about the history and culture of Nepal, I find my deficient knowledge about this place embarrassing. She tells me about how Dalits are mistreated within her context, and I marvel at the fact that while I have heard much about the caste system in India, I have never really thought about how it extends to other nations within South Asia. It is the same feeling of embarrassment I have when a Bangladeshi friend explains the links between the Bangla language and Bengali.

Why should I feel embarrassed, you might ask.

Knowing a fair amount about South Asia from India, it’s the same embarrassment I feel about knowing some other regions of the world almost exclusively from one country. It is the embarrassment I feel about the ignorance I still hold about parts of this geopolitical and ideological space we like to refer to as "the global South".

Feminist framings of “the global South”

For some time now, I have been quite frustrated by the way feminist activism frames "the global South" in often homogenising ways. If one imagines the sheer geographical size of this space – which includes Latin America, Africa and most parts of Asia – it becomes self-evident that collapsing the experiences of peoples of such a diverse range of oppressions and actions against them inevitably leads to significant forms of erasure.

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