Making GPN Theory Work: Some Reflections – Lecture by Henry Yeung (NUS, Singapore)

Drawing on my forthcoming book manuscript Theory and Explanation in Geography – forthcoming with the RGS-IBG Book Series for late 2023/early 2024 publication –, this presentation reflects critically on the normative stance of theory building and epistemological practices in contemporary human geography.

2023. június 21.

Despite the widely acknowledged importance of recognizing one’s situatedness and positionality in geographical knowledge production, the development of reverse discourses in order to theorize back at situated knowledges emanating from Western Europe and North America remains a daunting epistemological challenge in human geography. I argue that the recognition of situated knowledges is necessary but perhaps insufficient in theorizing back at and advancing social science understanding of complex socio-spatial worlds. Reflecting on my work in the co-development of the theory of global production networks, I explain how the key concept of “strategic coupling”, grounded in the transformative material realities of East Asia, has been conceived and deployed to theorize back at dominant conceptions of endogenous regional development in Western theories and to “speak back” to mainstream Anglo-American human geography. Pushing further this situated discourse of global economic geographies, I believe there are necessary reflexive steps for making the theory of global production networks work better, as a “Southern” theory, in explaining the recent “troubles” with global production networks, deglobalization, and decoupling during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Henry Wai-chung Yeung Photo:

Henry Wai-chung Yeung is a "distinguished professor" at the National University of Singapore. He was awarded the title of "Distinguished Professor" in 2018 for outstanding professional achievement and academic and thought-leadership accomplishments.

Professor Yeung is a leading scholar of economic geography and a leading figure in the influential Manchester School. His research includes the geographical nature of production processes and the study of state-business relations. He is a leading analyst of Global Production Networks (GPN) and has focused in recent years on the exploration of semiconductor production networks, one of the most insightful experts on the subject.

Winner of several leading professional societies' awards for excellence: in 2017, he was awarded the AAG Honors, the highest honor of the American Association of Geographers. In the same year, he received the Murchison Award from the Royal Geographical Society. In 2022, he received the Sir Peter Hall Award, the highest honour of the Regional Studies Association.

He is Editor-in-Chief of leading journals such as Economic Geography, Environment and Planning A and the Journal of Economic Geography.

In 2020, he was ranked 16th out of a total of 12 897 ranked geographers. He is ranked among the top 2% of scientists in the world. Author of 105 scientific articles, of which more than 20 articles in Top 10 geographic journals and 40 articles in Top 20 journals.

He is the author of several book chapters, co-authored books and four highly cited single-authored books, Transnational Corporations and Business Networks: Hong Kong Firms in the ASEAN Region (Routledge, London, 1998), Entrepreneurship and the Internationalisation of Asian Firms: An Institutional Perspective (Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2002), Chinese Capitalism in a Global Era (Routledge, London, 2004), and Interconnected Worlds: Global Electronics and Production Networks in East Asia (Stanford University Press, 2022).