Newsletter Issue:
Spring 2024

Mexico City: A World of Many Worlds

By Rummy Gill, PhD Candidate, Cohort ’20

IDSVA’s intensive residency in Mexico City, takes students to a location that embodies a vibrant cultural history that brings together diverse peoples and languages of multiple cultures and ethnicities. It is a powerful topological space that threads a complex fabric not only of Mexico but reaches far into the Mesoamerican region. The residency is an introduction to the possibilities of pluriverse. A World of Many Worlds, a core reading for the residency, opens the dialogue of what it means to consider a pluriverse.

The “Introduction: Pluriverse,” A World of Many Worlds, co-authored by scholars Marisol de la Cadena and Mario Blaser, explores the possibilities of a pluriversal world, focusing on “the negotiated coming together of heterogeneous worlds (and their practices)” (de la Cadena and Blaser 4). For de la Cadena and Blaser, the proponents of pluriversality explore a pathway towards the realization of a ‘pluriverse’ that values diversity, non-hierarchy, non-linearity, and non-violence, suggesting a oneness with nature rather than being situated in the notion of Western metaphysics. Pluriversal thought enters into a “political and scholarly” dialogue about the Anthropocene in reaction to the ‘one-world’ situated in metaphysics universalizing Western modernity as being seen as the height of progress (1, 3). Western modernity, in this context, has failed to usher humanity to a progressive “one-world world,” in turn giving an upsurge to the current ecological calamities and growing hostilities dividing humanity and nature (4).

Scholars de la Cadena and Blaser invite us to consider how the Anthropocene compels us to rethink the apparent separation between humanity and nature (1, 2). The scholars quote Paul J. Crutzen from “Geology of Mankind” who says, “A daunting task lies ahead for scientists and engineers to guide society towards environmentally sustainable management during the era of the Anthropocene” (1). Following this thought, the scholars suggest that the proponents of the ontological turn in anthropology and science studies, the separation between humanity and nature is a leading attribute of Western epistemology. Western tradition conceptualizes this separation of humanity and nature as a division between “subject and object”, between culture and nature, and between the mind and the world’s reality (7). What de la Cadena and Blaser suggest is that in Western modern epistemology, there is only ‘one-world,’ one nature, and the various practices of scientific or non-scientific knowledge apply themselves to this unique world from the outside (2). Therefore, de la Cadena and Blaser are proposing a shift from epistemology to the ontological makings of a “world of many worlds” to oppose “a world where only one world fits” (3).

Fig. 1 A World of Many Worlds: Book cover art by artist Paula Overlay, Gyration, 2016

The scholars argue that the ‘pluriverse’ concept provides “an analytic tool” for this field of “ecologies of practices across heterogeneous(ly) entangled worlds” (4). They emphasize its facility for engaging effectively with those “other worlds” that might be unsuitable with the epistemological expectations of the ‘scientists and engineers’ (1, 4, 5). What de la Cadena and Blaser are saying is that “the pluriverse is not a matter of fact or concern but rather an opening toward a possibility that needs care—one that is a “constant starting point” of dialogue (19).  What de la Cadena and Blaser are saying is that these proposals, along with Western modernity, can be seen as a transformative cross-fertilization to bring together a common cause for all. This type of relationality or hybridity helps to cultivate “interests in common which are not the same interests or what we see as the making of uncommons” (4); rather it negotiates in practices and in sites where different worlds are entangled with each other (4). For de la Cadena and Blaser, the notion of ‘pluriverse’ points to recognizing worlds already entangled in their multiple cultural outlooks.

The scholars propose and engage with “three thematic axes'' (6). Firstly, “It Matters What Concepts We Use to Think Concepts:'' the subject of the scholars’ first theme, moves away from an epistemological to an interpretative form and nonrepresentational understanding of how different groups posit the same world and how they might inhibit different worlds. For de la Cadena and Blaser the concept of ‘worlding’ is situated in a process that eradicates the boundaries between subject and environment to offer a positive spatiality that enables  ‘mutual differences’ to emerge (11). Secondly, in “Cosmopolitics Meets Political Ontology,” the scholars use “Political Ontology” to suggest a politics among heterogeneous worlds” calling this a “cosmopolitics’ (12). “Cosmopolitics”  is “a tool to think about disputes (gatherings) that concerned and included participants whose presence was not recognized by all who participated in the gatherings” (12). The scholars argue that political ontology operates on the notion of “divergent worldings” that bring forth “negotiations, enmeshments, crossings, and interruptions” (6).

Lastly, in the section “The Anthropocene as an Opportunity for Pluriversal Worlding,” the revelation of the Anthropocene provided what the authors suggest as an ontological opening, provoking a challenge to previously stable concepts of the commons. In developing this challenge, the scholars draw attention to how a kind of attempted epistemological stance situates in a cultural universalism defined by the history of anthropological thought. The scholars propose that scientists and engineers engage “other worlds” rather than relying on a one-way prescriptive map of their own lands to understand that “the absence of our image does not reflect nothingness” (17). It is imperative that the notion of the Anthropocene enters academic, political, and environmental discourses differently to become understood as a universalizing event that produces a new universal subject of history. The scientists and engineers would thereby be responsive to those worlds “whose disappearance was assumed at the outset of the Anthropocene” (2).

A World of Many Worlds postulates a spatiality to rethink ‘sameness’ in order to understand and resolve the “uncommons” (18). This chapter articulates a shift that goes beyond the ontological divisions and hegemonic conditioning to create a new and advantageous strategy to destabilize the notions of standardization situated in the “commons.” De la Cadena and Blaser show us a new opening, a spatiality that creates meaningful possibilities of universality, bringing together not only the complex but the divergent world markings —to contribute towards a heterogeneity. In this pluriverse there is no finality in the conversations, only opportunities for multiple openings for all of us to join and to contribute towards this very important work in recognition of oneness—a world of many worlds.

Works Cited

De la Cadena, Marisol, and Mario Blaser (Eds).“Introduction: Pluriverse: Proposals for a World of Many Worlds.” A World of Many Worlds. Duke University Press: Durham and  London, 2018.

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.