Sociology of Absences

The ‘sociology of absences’, developed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos, refers both to the general silences around particular experiences and the way in which these silences are actively created through particular processes. It enables an address of what is marginalised, suppressed, and of what has not been allowed to exist in the first place. It focuses on the processes that obstruct connections to be made between different struggles and knowledges to demonstrate how the ‘incompleteness’ and ‘inadequacy’ of counter-hegemonic forms is produced. Santos suggest that hegemonic globalisation overlays an understanding of the global upon the world that denies and erases local differences. In contrast, ‘the universal and the global constructed by the sociology of absences, far from denying or eliminating the particular and the local, rather encourages them to envision what is beyond them’ (2001: 191). In other words, the sociology of absences argues for understandings of the global to be created through the non-linear accretion of local engagements.


Essential Reading:

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa 2001. ‘Nuestra America: Reinventing a Subaltern Paradigm of Recognition and Redistribution,’ Theory, Culture & Society 18 (2-3): 185-217.


Further Readings:

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa 2006. ‘Globalizations,’ Theory, Culture & Society 23 (2-3): 393-399

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (ed.) 2007. Another Knowledge is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies. London: Verso.



What are the key features of a ‘sociology of absences’?

What is the role of ‘silence’ and ‘silencing’ that is being highlighted within Santos’s ‘sociology of absences’?

How can the problems identified by a ‘sociology of absences’ be addressed?

Discuss the challenges and limitations posed by this understanding.


Submitted by Gurminder K Bhambra

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3 thoughts on “Transnationalism”

  • As a recent recipient of the graduate school certificate in African studies at ASU, my final drew from or focused in part on the settler narrative movement of the antebellum era. Despite the discovery of over 100 burials from this era that came to light recently, it was all treated in a quite troubing manner. Settler Colonial mentality was pervasive. It is clear, the slave labor narrative must be preserved at all cost. Local professional organizations and offices were disrespected and ignored as if the descended community did not exist. People wear the continuance of mixed relationships from this history and it is only now that they are finding their voice and their heritage in some cases. Global social theory is spot on.

  • I’m interested in colonialism,settler colonialism and decolonisation as it speaks to the original ownership of the land/country[?].
    I was interested to read ‘the tendency among some scholars of settler colonialism to treat settlement as inevitable, simultaneously relieving settler societies and states of the burden of reconciling with indigenous peoples, and placing the burden of accommodating settler sovereignty onto those same indigenous peoples'[above]
    I have been tentatively searching for references to the morality/legality of colonialisation,which could possibly have huge ramifications,and they are scarce.

  • Interesting. Could you please add Maria Lugones’s work in the further reading section please? She not only engaged with Quijano’s concept but revised it significantly to demonstrate the coloniality of gender. Thank you.

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