Phi Beta Kappa presents How Europe and America Are Evolving Towards Africa; or, Theory from the South

This lecture by John Comaroff will explore how "The Global South" has become a shorthand for the world of non-European, postcolonial peoples. Synonymous with uncertain development, unorthodox economies, failed states, and nations fraught with corruption, poverty, incivility, and strife, it is that half of the world about which the "Global North" spins theories. Rarely is it seen as a source of explanation for world historical events. Yet, as many nation-states of the northern hemisphere experience increasing fiscal meltdown, state privatization, corruption, creeping poverty, ethnic conflict, xenophobia, problems of law and order, and other perceived crises, it seems as though they are evolving southward, so to speak, in both positive and problematic ways. Is this so? How? In what measure? This lecture takes on these questions, In particular, it asks how we might understand the world anew with theory developed in the south, giving an ironic twist to the evolutionary pathways long assumed by social scientists.

John Comaroff is the Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American studies and of anthropology, and an Oppenheimer Fellow in African Studies.  Before joining the Harvard faculty in 2012, he was Swift Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago, where he received a Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and Honorary Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town.  He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  His current research in South Africa is on crime, policing, and the workings of the state; on democracy and difference; and on postcolonial politics.  He has authored and edited numerous books.

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Society’s Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America’s most distinguished scholars.  The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the institution by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.  The 13 men and women participating during 2013-2014 will visit 100 colleges and universities with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, spending two days on each campus and taking full part in the academic life of the institution.  They will meet informally with students and faculty members, participate in classroom discussions and seminars, and give a public lecture open to the entire academic community.  Now entering its 58th year, the Visiting Scholar Program has sent 611 Scholars on 5,004 two-day visits.  Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society.  It has chapters at 283 institutions and more than half a million members throughout the country.  Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression.  Additional information about the Visiting Scholar Program can be found on Phi Beta Kappa’s website (

Date: November 21, 2013

Time: 7:00 p.m.

Location: Cultural Center Theatre, reception to follow in Hofstra Hall


Thursday, November 21, 2013



Cultural Center Theater - Leo A. Guthart
Guthart Cultural Center Theater
Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549

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