Video Abstract – “Decentring the Lettered City: Exile, Transnational Networks, and Josué de Castro’s Centre International pour le Développement (1964–1973)”

Forthcoming in January 2022 in the first issue of Antipode’s 54th volume, and available (open access) online now, Federico Ferretti’s “Decentring the Lettered City: Exile, Transnational Networks, and Josué de Castro’s Centre International pour le Développement (1964–1973)” brings painstaking archival research to bear on the perennial discussion of the relevance of radical scholarship and its relationship with activism.

Examining the case of the Centre International pour le Développement (CID), founded by Brazilian geographer Josué de Castro during his exile in Paris, Federico draws upon Latin American works on the “Lettered City” and the evolving role of intellectuals in constructing critical knowledge, to explore new archives revealing the CID’s daily (net)working. His argument is that this case suggests new interpretations of the notion of Lettered City, and he deploys the work of anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman to think through the potentialities (and limits) of radical intellectuals’ roles in influencing politics and proposing solutions to global problems. On the one hand, despite Castro’s international renown, the CID failed in its mission of involving politicians and “enlightened” businessmen during the Cold War because its purposes clashed with the interests of most of its interlocutors. On the other, the CID’s archives show that Castro performed a powerful global networking to circulate ideas that still inspire radical geographers.

As well as contributing historical-geographical insights to debates on the relationship between socially-transformative intellectual work and grassroots activism, Federico speaks to conversations on linguistic diversity in Geography, aiming to challenge academic monolingualism and eurocentrism. Understanding the multilingualism and cosmopolitanism of CID’s scholars, he argues, offers valuable resources for the task of bridging different worlds.


Federico Ferretti is a Professor of Geography in the Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Educazione “G.M. Bertin” at the Università di Bologna. Among his many publications are a superb series of historical-geographical studies in Antipode. You can access these, and see Federico talking about his latest essay, below.

Between Radical Geography and Humanism: Anne Buttimer and the International Dialogue Project”, Volume 51, Issue 4, September 2019

Arcangelo Ghisleri and the “Right to Barbarity”: Geography and Anti-colonialism in Italy in the Age of Empire (1875–1914)”, Volume 48, Issue 3, June 2016

‘They have the right to throw us out’: Élisée Reclus’ New Universal Geography”, Volume 45, Issue 5, November 2013