Archipelagic geographies, civil society and global development

Sarah Peck*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Civil society is seen as a key actor within and for global development. However, spatial representations of civil society within the global development landscape are dominated by scale, place, and verticality, neglecting more relational understandings of civic participation. Engaging with archipelagic thinking, drawn from the work of Édouard Glissant, Derek Walcott, and others, this paper makes a case for thinking about civil society through archipelagic relational ontologies. By employing an archipelagic lens to empirical material from research with civil society groups in Barbados and Grenada, the paper explores the relational creativity and metamorphic transformations that are part of civil society action. Utilising an archipelagic lens to think about civil society organising emphasises how civil society activity is produced, performed, and operationalised through creative relational arrangements that span (and contest) dominant spatial categories. For civil society actors this ‘metamorphic creativity’ – the crafting of these relations, the bringing together of ‘bits and pieces’, and the transforming and reworking of these relations to produce new forms and spaces of civic activity – is key to sustaining civil society and their own civic identities. This illustrates the creative, yet fragile nature of civil society, concluding that through these metamorphic relations civil society actors foster new civic spaces and identities, yet civil society simultaneously may also be constituted through, and potentially (re)produce (new) hierarchies of power.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-131
Number of pages15
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number1
Early online date6 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


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