Decolonizing regional planning from the Global South: Active geographies and social struggles in Northeastern Brazil

This paper addresses the engagement of critical geographers from Northeastern Brazil with regional planning, aiming at transforming society by acting on their region’s spaces. Extending and putting in relation literature on planning theory in the Global South and geographical scholarship on decoloniality, I explore new archives showing how the planning work that these geographers performed from 1957 to 1964 was an example of the ‘South’ re-elaborating and putting into practice notions arising from ‘international’ literature, such as that of ‘active geography’, and pioneering critical uses of instruments, such as mappings and statistics, that have often been associated with technocracy and political conservatism. Connected with peasants’ struggles and with a theoretical framework that is cognisant of the colonial histories and insurgent Black and indigenous traditions in the Northeast, these geographers’ works show that there is no ‘Southern Theory’ without a concrete engagement of scholars with social and political problems, one which is not limited to ‘participation’, but aims at challenging the political powers in place. Although not devoid of contradictions that are analysed here, the experiences of these Southern geographers acting in and for the South can provide precious insights into current (Northern or Southern) scholarly programmes aimed at resisting oppression.

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Volume 39 Issue 4

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