South of Theory

by David Theo Goldberg


Theory of the Global North: critical theory in the Kantian and
post-Kantian veins.

Global North: bounded, boundaried, constraining movement,
more committed to the comparative than the relational,
to the legibility of the fixed,
to ways of reading the given.

Theory from the South: negotiating the fixities, the barriers,
as elaborated by the Comaroffs;
shifting cartographical and cultural coordinates
of what the south amounts to,
historically understood and never fixed for all time.

Comprehending movement itself,
bounded only from outside itself,
by its externalities.
It is theory as movement itself.

South of Theory is the thinking from and of flows, from flaws,
repeated ruptures—
in histories, in spatialities, in socialites.
It is the thinking from and of going and resting,
barely, and going—
having of necessity to go—again.
From the forced wandering of the itinerant, of itinerancy,
rather than the meanderings of flaneury.
It is the practice of routings, not rooting,
the cartography of tracing pathways through traversed landscapes,
not the aerial projections of mappings’ global emplotments.

From life and lives often bare, not in the Agambenian sense, 
but in having to face up to life completely without safety net,
with no means other than relationality.

It is to think from
the possibility of the always improvisational,
from the logics and socialities
of repeated repair and reconstruction,
of making and remaking,
of holding together with and by a thread.
Where refuse is the resource of reuse,
refusal a re-fusing, restriction a re-siting.

It is the thinking from and of 
not exchange and the entrepreneurial—
which always entails the individuational profiting at another’s loss or expense—
but from the logics of interactivity, mutuality (which is not sameness),
shareability, assistance, and the in-common (Mbembe).

It is a thinking from
portability and transportability, from movement.
From evasion of the barrier, of uniformed authority.
Living freedom, freely as the evasion of order.
From the space time of the workaround and the walkaround,
from the affordances of lack,
from found bits and profound micro experiences.

It is the thinking of and as
resourcefulness with little or no resources or recourse
other than the stumbled across, the picked up,
the put to other use than the initially designed or ‘intended.’

From being invisible in plain sight,
from the capacity to make the visible disappear,
and the invisible manifest
when conditions demand it.
It is to surface the buried when called for,
to re-press and veil when necessary.
It is to know what’s called for in the moment,
to call forth the unknown momentarily.
Perhaps at best it is a thinking only fragmentarily, in
fragments, as incompleteness awaiting filling in
that could never complete itself or perhaps be completed.
Of that which cannot be spoken, passes over in silence.

South of Theory is nothing short of poor theory,
of theory made poor,
of thinking out of the poverty of philosophy.
(Not Grotowski’s poor theatre, though not unrelated)

Identity is not something fixed,
or fixed, if at all, only from the
outside,
as imposition,
unfixed not in the sense only as unchanging
but as a pragmatic of political and personal positionings, shifting.

This is part of a series, Poor Theory in Three Movements, responding to the work and vitality of Poor Theory.