Walter Mignolo

Thoughts on modernity/coloniality, geopolitics of knowledge, border thinking, pluriversality, and the decolonial option.

On Pluriversality

The piece below was written in rsponse to a question formulated by Arturo Escobar, Marisol de la Cadena and Mario Blaser. Marisol, Mario and Arturo are starting a project investigating the various uses of the concept of ¨pluriverse.¨ They asked me how I stumbled into the concept and how I  used and use  it. In responding to them i ended up writing a sort of auto-biographic op-ed on pluriversality.

Here it is:

      The first time I used the concept of pluriverse was in a series of conferences between 1996 and 1998 , which was finally published in 2000 in Binghamton REVIEW, the journal of the Fernand Braudel Center , in the title of ¨The Zapatista´s Theoretical Revolution. Its consequences historical, political and epistemological.” It appeared as a chapter  slightly revised, in The Darker Side of Western Modenrnity, 2011. Which means that during the 14/5 years span  the concept of pluriversality was used in many instances of my work. I heard about it during the early years of the Zapatista’s uprising. Franz Hinkelammert and Enrique Dussel were using the term and it fitted perfectly well perfectly well with the idea of  “pluritopic hermeneutics” I borrowed from Raymundo Pannikar and became a crucial concept in The Darker Side of the Renaissance. (1995 ).
      Hermeneutics, in Western genealogy of thoughts, names a type of reflection on meaning and interpretation within one cosmology, Western cosmology. When you have to deal with two or more cosmologies, as i did in The Darker Side of the Renaissance, you need a pluritopic hermeneutics. Why? Because you are dealing with a pluriverse of meaning and not onli with a universe of meaning. Pluriversality became my key arguments to call into question the concept of universality, so dear to Western cosmology. How so? Western epistemology and hermeneutics  (meaning Greek and Latin languages translated into the six modern European and imperial languages) managed universalize its own concept of universality dismissing the fact that  all known civilizations are founded on the universality of his own cosmology. 
       There is no reason to believe that the Bible is universal and the Popol Vuh is not. The universalization of universality in the West was part of its imperial project .So then a key idea in  Local Histories / Global Designs (2000/2012) was ¨ pluriversality as a universal project.”  That is the universal can only be pluriversal, which also matched the Zapatista’s idea of a world in which many world would coexist.  We, in the planet, had arrived at the end of the era of abstract universals, that is of one universal universality. 
     Pluriversality is not cultural relativism, but entanglement of several cosmologies connected today in a power differential. That power differential is the logic of coloniality covered up by the rhetorical narrative of modernity. Modernity is a fiction that carries in it the seed of Western pretense to universality.Expanding on that line of reasoning, it was necessary to introduce a concept that capture the “/” of modernity/coloniality, that is, the “/” of the entanglement and power differential. And that concept was rendered as “border thinking, border epistemology, border gnosis.”
     If a pluriverse is not a world of independent units (cultural relativism) but a world entangled through and by the colonial matrix of power, then, it a way of thinking and understanding that dwells in the entanglement, in the borders, is needed. So the point is not to “study” the borders, very fashionable today, while at the same time “dwelling” in a territorial epistemology, would imply that you accept a pluriverse some place out there that you “observe” from some place else outside the pluriverse.
      To do so it is necessary to maintain the territoriality of the disciplines grounded on the imperial epistemology of modernity. Thinking pluritopically means, instead, to dwell in the border. Dwelling in the border is not border-crossing, even less looking and studying the borders from the territorial gaze of the disciplines. Today “border study” became fashionable, even in Europe. Scholars studying borders are in general not dwelling in them. Who dwell in the border are the migrants from Africa, West Asia and Latin America, mainly. That’s what I learned from Anzaldúa. Chicanos and Chiacanas are migrants and queers, migrants or not, are always dwelling in the border.
      I think the impact that Local Histories / Global Designs was writing in inhabiting the border not just observing and describing it. I revealed in the preface to the second edition (2012) that the argument was a rewriting of Hegel’s philosophy of history inhabiting the border. So that border epistemology became the way, as in Buddhism, or the method, as in Western sciences, social or not, of decolonial thinking and doing.  A key point to move away from the trap that distinguishes theory from praxis. Reflexive praxis is, instead, the motu at Amawtay Wasi. Why, because the very education project is built on border epistemology. The overall world-sense is Indigenous and Andean cosmology, not rejecting Indigenous European cosmology but em-bodied it in Andean cosmology.
      Border thinking is why take the effort to combine the body with writing, writing with the body and not just in the body, combine the heart with the mind, senti-pensar (feeling-thinking) as they say in Ecuador .In the In the Darker Side of Western Modernity i returned to the idea of pluriversality connecting it with the idea of multiverse in Humberto Maturana’s epistemology. The multiverse is for Maturana a world of truth in parenthesis while the universe is a world built on truth without parenthesis. Uni-verality is always imperial and war-driven. Pluri and multi verses and convivial, dialogical or plurilogical. Now pluri- and multi-verses exists independent of the state and the corporations and it is the work of the emerging global political society, e.g., the sector of society organizing themselves around specific projects once they/we realize that neither the state nor the corporations have room for multi- or pluriverses.
        While “multi and pluriverses” characterizes the making of the global political society, in the realm of the state and the corporations the vocabulary is that of “multipolar world.”  The multi-polar world of today has been opened up by the economic growth and political confidence of China’s inter-state politics, together with the BRICS and the growing economies and politics of Indonesia and Turkey, the Latin American states in Mercosur following the leadership of Brazil, member of BRICS countries. When Vladimir Putin “stole” Barack Obama menace of invading Syria, it was evident that the unipolar world that made possible the invasion of Iraq is not longer in place. And it seems obvious also that Putin’s chess move was possible because of the support of BRICS alliance of which he is the current chair. Thus, I would like to use pluriverse in the sphere of decolonial projects coming from the global political society (desracializing and depatriarchalizing projects, food sovereignity, economic organization of reciprocity and definancializaiton of money, decolonization of knowledge and of being, decolonization of religion to liberate spirituality, decolonization of aesthetics to liberate aesthesis, etc., etc., etc.) and multi-polarity in the sphere of politico-economic dewesternization, lead states projects.

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