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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

McFarlane, C. Crossing Borders: development, learning and the North-South divide. Third World Quarterly. 2006;27:1413-1437.

Author(s) from Durham


While the validity of categories like ‘First’ and ‘Third’ World or ‘North’ and ‘South’ has been increasingly questioned, there have been few attempts to consider how learning between North and South might be conceived. Drawing on a range of perspectives from development and postcolonial scholarship, this paper argues for the creative possibility of learning between different contexts. This involves a conceptualisation of learning that is at once ethical and indirect: ethical because it transcends a liberal integration of subaltern knowledge, and indirect because it transcends a rationalist tendency to limit learning to direct knowledge transfer between places perceived as ‘similar’. This challenge requires a consistent interrogation of the epistemic and institutional basis and implications of the North – South divide, and an insistence on developing progressive conceptions of learning.


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Department of Geography