South–South Co-operation (SSC) has become increasingly important in international development policy and practice as both alternative and complementary to North–South Co-operation. Crafted through the acceptance, appropriation, and instrumentalisation of a colonialist idea of an underdeveloped world, SSC has been historically defined as an expression of Southern solidarity, through which developing countries collaborate to achieve progress, modernity, and development. It is often claimed to involve mutually beneficial, horizontal exchange of resources between developing countries – particularly knowledge – and to foster decolonising practices. In this paper, I argue that while one of the starting points for SSC was opposition to North–South knowledge hierarchies, its legitimisation has been constructed through postcolonial power inequalities and new forms of authoritative knowledge that reiterate old hierarchies. Drawing on in-depth ethnographic research conducted as part of my doctoral studies, I show how the building and international legitimatisation of Brazilian ‘best practices’ – in the gender equality field – has produced a political economy of opportunities and mobility for these professionals; their professional pathways to Mozambique are indicative of the processes of production of Southern expertise and new knowledge hierarchies. I also discuss Brazilian development workers’ discourses about the relevance of Brazilian experiences to Mozambique. Theoretically, the paper is inspired by critical development theory with a feminist and postcolonial approach. It uses postcolonial literature, usually applied to relations between colonisers and former colonies, to look at how colonial discourses and discourses about Africa, the ‘Third World’, and the West historically intervened in the encounters between people from former colonies and continue to be activated. Specifically, I analyse imaginaries of ‘Southern’ and ‘developing country’ identity embedded in expertise claims.
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