|This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.
Global South is a generic term used by WMF in much of the official communication and discussion, in order to denote countries not necessarily located in the geographical south, but to refer to developing nations and third world countries. The usage of the term might be unintentional or euphemistic, but is certainly pervasive. The usage has been propagated in much of the Wikimedia ether through repeated references and re-enforcement of the term by WMF as a casual and an acceptable term within the lexicon, unknowingly accepted by parties unaware of its negative connotation and the repeated objections by many.
WMF certainly isn't credited for coining the term, but certainly for propagating its usage for the past few years in many different contexts. The origin of the term might have something to do with Anglican Church's usage of the term, w:en:Global_South_(Anglican), to describe Third world nations. It might have made its way into economic, or developmental lexicon at some point, propagated further by its usage as a non-profit terminology or perhaps, through research materials, as a politically acceptable euphemism.
In the current context, its usage continues unabated even after constant objections and complaints from "Global South-erners", who would prefer not to use the term to refer to them or their home countries. The usage in itself is telling - After constant objections from the Global southereners over the year, the word is continued to be used as an acceptable term by individuals and an organization not located in the Global South. It becomes the case of the privileged refusing to accept the objection of a particular demographic, and still using it to refer to "them".
After noted objections, the simplest course of action would have been to abandon the term in lieu of an acceptable alternative. It would certainly be the easiest option, and yet the term refuses to be abandoned, leaving little recourse to the offended parties.
Its usage in the face of mounting criticism makes WMF seem apathetic towards feelings of others. This general apathy towards the offended and the term, might stem from certain members or the organization itself. Any credibility to the excuse of being uninitiated or simply unaware after 2 years of objections to usage of a word, though still employed by some, is a weak argument.
A flawed analysis
Even a cursory analysis of the distinction would reveal, possibly crypto-racist tendencies marking the under-current of its usage. The list of countries in the "Global North" isn't absolute and differs from source to source, but nearly all of them include North America, Europe and an entire continent located in the Geographical South, Australia along with New Zealand, in the supposed "Global North". Global south, on the other hand, always includes much of the African Continent, South America, and the poorest parts of Asia and Middle-east. An argument can be made, that the terminology taps into a racial divide between Anglo-Saxon ancestry and the rest of the non-white world but to not seem overt in this characterization, most of these classifications usually make minor exceptions for smaller nations located in Asia Pacific and Middle-east, for example including Japan, or Israel in that same classification as parts of Global North. Even as a buzzword, Global South makes a strong contrast to the affluent north, and the geographic South between much of Africa and South America. This becomes evident by the pervasive usage by Non-global-southerners as opposed to the southerners themselves.
Whether it is intentional to convey such undertones is not known but it is becoming more and more noticeable. It is certainly a word that a demographic doesn't prefer to be labeled as, it is misleading, inaccurate and possibly offensive to some parties. Even after communication of such objections, its usage continues. The excuse offered range from "It was being used before too" and "You used it too", perhaps a similar argument can be made for racial epithets.
If one were to make such a comparison, racial epithets were used to denote a certain demographic, in most cases with the knowledge of the offended parties that such a term was being used to denigrate or refer to them as a separate collective. Then the argument, that its usage isn't limited to WMF but continued even by some offended parties. I suppose a similar comparison can be made with certain racial epithets again, if there exists a concept of immunity within the usage. The bottom line remains, people and countries being referred to, above all community members, clearly object to its use, is that not enough to avoid the term. It becomes easier to offend than choose an alternative term.
Comparison with Racial epithets
A cursory comparison can be made here between racial epithets and a term that offends. "Global South" is being used by the privileged to denote someone not-privileged. They both offend the individuals being referred to. Several racial epithets were introduced and propagated by the privileged to refer to some one externally, someone unlike them, it bunched up several countries based crude observations, and appearances. For example, at certain points within history, people of African ancestry had everything from a slave to even animal-like connotations attached to those epithets. Asians which corresponds to more than half of all human beings, had connotations from poor, uncivilized, short to almost cartoon-ish caricatures. This act of subsuming devolving, and dehumanizing more than 70-80% of all humanity, not based on any geographical lines or real world factors but some age-old cryptic delineation that runs parallel to only ancestry and race, about 95% of the times. The only question that remains is, was this delineation intentional?
The intention of an epithet is to abuse, to offend, if a new word achieves the same result, can it be classified as an epithet?
At its core, it refers to 'them', those people over there, not us. The only distinction being applied to lump half the world together, isn't necessarily economic, or based on the level of development. It taps into an undercurrent of xenophobic degradation.
North as the privileged, at the top. And the rest of 'them' - down there. Doesn't matter how different they are there, they are not here.
The problem confounds on itself when you consider the implication that most or perhaps all the Global North, has white ancestry in some fashion or another. Almost all classifications include North America- shared between the US and Canada, always leaving off Mexico, majority of Europe, constantly distancing between the eastern bloc and Russia, never claiming more than 4-6 small countries within the rest of the entire world, limiting to Israel, South Korea or Japan or a couple of others. It then reaches across the other end of the geographical South to claim an entire continent, more southern than any other to have it be part of the North. The only distinction would be similar ancestry - there would be several classifications, economical, even developmental that would reveal several dozen countries being more prosperous than the ones accepted in the North. It never includes China, India, the entire continent of Africa, the entire continent of South America, middle-east and about 98% of Asia all together. Again, it is very hard to look beyond ancestry when even several economical indicator place some of these countries ahead of the ones in the Global North.
Which leads its way to the current recourse, there is no other option but to hereby announce the creation of a Global South to satisfy this constant requirement. Since, this term does not seem to be going away, it should be reclaimed. Below is a list of countries, cities, people, animals, food items, all manner of flora and fauna who would be identified as Global Southerners or of Global South. If you agree, add yourself, add your cat, add your grandmother (she won't mind), and point to this list whenever you encounter the said terminology. You don't have to be from any particular country, or group in order to add your name, just don't forget to add your cat, grandmother, or whatever else that comes to your mind at the moment.
There is no other option but to wear the term as a badge. So, be a Southerner, be a proud Global Southerener!
- Community Engagement/Defining Emerging Communities (redefining Global South and Global North by Asaf - August 2017)
- List of countries by regional classification
- Global South Exchange
- File:WMF's New Global South Strategy.pdf
- Global south projects (humorous list)
- Vijay Prashad, Dream History of the Global South (PDF): «The "Global South" comes to refer to this concatenation of protests against the theft of the commons, against the theft of human dignity and rights, against the undermining of the democratic institutions, and the promises of modernity.»