Collaborations Across Global North-South: Considering Opportunities and Challenges

Smruthi Bala Kannan (Rutgers University-Camden)

Rashmi Kumari (Rutgers University-Camden)
NEOS Volume 12: Issue 1, April 2020

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 Scholarly engagement around the issues of childhood and youth is often “knocking at the backdoor of academia that is adult-centric” and, in turn, centered around hegemonic discourses (Cox 2019). What logically follows is a critique of normative childhoods – carefree, school-going, dependent—conceived as centered in the Global North context. Such critique calls for further investigation of the existing and emerging forms of childhoods that defy this norm, and scholarship on childhoods that goes past the North-South binary to pay attention to flows of people, material, and ideas (Balagopalan 2019)  

As PhD students of childhood studies working in India, we often find that scholarship emerging from institutions in the Global South informs our work in productive ways. Likewise, we have found a significant flow of conceptual knowledge from the Global North to the South, especially around the scholarship on child rights and protection. However, the representation of the scholarship from the Global South in the forums that are mostly situated in the Global North is often skewed.

As a step towards balancing this asymmetrical representation of scholarship from the Majority world, at ACYIG there has been discussion about publishing a thematic issue of NEOS that centers Global South scholarship. In this commentary, as a first of many such efforts, we highlight some of the issues and challenges we face in such collaborations. We also highlight some possible questions/directions towards addressing these concerns. 

Challenges, Responses, and Considerations in Transnational Collaborations

The challenges of transnational collaborations are varied and complex. The quotidian details of the collaborations, such as scheduling meetings across time-zones, linguistic differences, financial barriers to travel, and access to similar academic communities, are often situated in and complicated by structural inequities. Such inequities can include differential access to library and journal resources, and unequal value of currencies. Further, colonial legacies of unequal power relations among the various academic institutions are often shadows that underlie these inequities. Some existing academic collaborations have attempted a range of solutions to bridge these gaps, including video conferencing, ability-based financial contributions, and decolonizing praxis in designing interactions.  

While these solutions, along with technological affordances, have certainly helped cultivate diverse representation of scholarly voices, much more is needed to expand the existing scholarship to include non-normative childhoods not only in the Global North scholarship but also to engage with the Global South scholarship that continuously challenges our understandings of childhoods. For example, Kay Tisdall and Samantha Punch’s (2012) critique of Childhood Studiesinvites us to pay particular attention to the “intricacies, complexities, tensions, ambiguities and ambivalences of children and young people’s lives across both Majority and Minority World contexts” (p.259). Rather than slipping into the binary where childhoods and youth in the Minority world context are normative, and those in the Majority world context are the “non-” or the “multiple-”, scholarly collaborations can historicize, and engage in ways in which the non-normative childhoods and “local” childhoods interact with and are shaped by normative or hegemonic ideas and global flows (Hanson et al. 2018). 

Prior work in NEOS and ACYIG has centered ethics, reflexivity, and care as research praxis. While presenting a nuanced understanding of the agency and voice of the participants in their research, scholars have also underscored how young people are embedded in, and add value to, their home communities and global contexts (e.g., Sinervo and Cheney 2019, Duncan and Finn 2018, Vanderbilt 2019). Bringing such a research praxis to relationships within academia, however, can often be logistically difficult and interrupted by institutional discourses of discipline and merit. However, doing so can undoubtedly expand historical and theoretical perspectives on non-normative conceptualizations of childhoods.

Reflecting on these issues, we pose three questions for consideration in the decade forward: What would academic collaborations that are sensitive to and resist the existing unequal power relationships between Minority and Majority world contexts look like? How can organizational spaces pave the way for representation and collaborations to occur with ethics, reflexivity, respect, and care? And finally, how would the theoretical landscape in the anthropology of children and youth be further enriched by such collaborations? 


Balagopalan, Sarada. 2019. Teaching “Global Childhoods”: From a Cultural Mapping of “Them” to a Diagnostic Reading of ‘Us/US’.” In Global Childhoods beyond the North-South Divide, edited by Afua Twum-Danso Imoh, Michael Bourdillon and Sylvia Meichsner. 13-34. New York: Palgrave.

Cox, Aimee Meredith. 2019. Keynote address at “Rethinking Child and Youth Marginalities: Movements, Narratives, And Exchanges.” ACYIG Biennial Conference, Rutgers-Camden.

Duncan, Pauline and Maureen Finn. 2018. “Methods & Ethics.” NEOS 10(2).

Hanson, Karl, et al. 2018. “Global/local’ research on children and childhood in a ‘global society’.” Childhood 25(3): 272–296. 

Sinervo, Aviva and Kristen Cheney. 2019. “NGO Economies of Affect: Humanitarianism and Childhood in Contemporary and Historical Perspective.” Disadvantaged Childhoods and Humanitarian Intervention, edited by Aviva Sinervo and Kristen Cheney.1-35. New York: Palgrave.

Tisdall, E Kay and Samantha Punch. 2012. “Not so ‘new’? Looking critically at childhood studies.” Children’s Geographies 10(3): 249–264

Vanderbilt, Sandra K. 2019. “The Ethics of Care in Research with Youth.” NEOS 11(1).

Author contact: Smruthi Bala Kannan (Rutgers State University of New Jersey), or Rashmi Kumari (Rutgers State University of New Jersey),

To cite this article: Kannan S. and Kumari R. 2020. Collaborations Across Global North-South: Considering Opportunities and Challenges. NEOS 12 (1).

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