Complicating the North-South Binary: A Small Islands Perspective

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


This presentation emphasizes habitual practices and cultural systems as key to degrowth theorization (Paulson 2017), and suggests a hitherto unexplored subtheme to the degrowth conversation, namely “islands, islandness and islanding”.

I present material generated from fieldwork in two small island countries, one in the “Global North” (the Faroe Islands) and the other in the “Global South” (São Tomé e Príncipe). While there is a clear material “North-South” difference between the political economies and socio-ecological metabolisms of these two island countries, both are also characterized by non-growth oriented economic philosophies that are contextually meaningful and ontologically commonsensical to its inhabitants.

My findings inspire me to explore the conceptual conundrum of the North-South binary when it comes to research and engagement with small island contexts in relation to degrowth discourse, theory and activism. Inspired by Mignolo (2002), I suggest the concept of modernity/coloniality as a useful approach for understanding the dynamics and onto-epistemological tensions between growth-oriented development economics (modernity) on the one hand and contextually embedded economic philosophies (colonial differences) on the other hand, whether in the “Global South” or in the “Global North”.


Mignolo, W. D. (2002). The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference. The South Atlantic Quarterly, 101(1), 57–96.

Paulson, S. (2017). Degrowth: culture, power and change. Journal of Political Ecology, 24, 425-448.
Period5 Sept 2018
Event titleThe 1sth North-South Conference on Degrowth-Descrecimento
Event typeConference
LocationMexico City, MexicoShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Small Islands
  • Global North/South
  • Social Metabolism
  • Faroe Islands
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Modernity/Coloniality
  • Degrowth
  • Postdevelopment