Long – where the rivers meet: learning from the Penan community | Co-becoming in the Pluriverse (Seminar 1)
From Richard Topgaard
How can we embrace the plurality of ontologies and epistemological practices that can be found across the globe? How can we respectfully learn together across diverse knowledge systems? This is the first of several seminars on the theme "Co-becoming in the Pluriverse", jointly hosted by the research platform Collaborative Future-Making and the Social Innovation Research Lab. Recorded on 20 October 2020.
Tariq Zaman, Associate Professor at the University College of Technology Sarawak; Garen Jengan, the Penan community of Long Lamai; Nicholas Toretta, PhD student at Umeå University; Ezra Uda and Franklin George, the People’s Association for Development and Education of Penan of Sarawak (PADE); Lizette Reitsma, Senior Lecturer, Malmö University; Andrea Botero, Aalto University; Ann Light, Malmö University; and Per-Anders Hillgren, Malmö University.
About the seminar
Scholars have for long been arguing that we need to move beyond the hegemony of Western/Northern academic traditions and embrace the plurality of ontologies and epistemological practices that can be found across the globe. There are many reasons for this. One is that we have to acknowledge and deal with the colonial oppression of indigenous knowledge systems. Another reason is that the huge variety of such systems might be exactly what we need to be able to cope with several of our current planetary challenges.
If we take this step, how can we then “work knowledges together” (to use a phrase from Helen Verran) where we respectfully learn together and accept the diverse existing forms of knowledge systems? A concept that might offer a path forward is the notions of pluriverse that has been popularized by among others Arturo Escobar, Ashish Kothari and Walter D. Mignolo and that has gained significant attraction recently. The pluriverse abandon universalist claims and inspired by the Zapatista movement it rather allows us to enter into a “world where many worlds fit” with interconnected diversity and difference.
As Sandra Harding argues we can all learn from Southern knowledge traditions although we also have to respect the limitations of not being situated in the same cultures. However, as she claims, we can “keep both eyes open, one on contemporary Western sciences and their philosophies, and the other on other cultures' scientific practices and legacies”. For example, many concepts rooted in the global South has a potential to bring new opportunities to our capacity to address climate change. Especially understandings of relationality, the rights of nature and communal logics of local self-regulation.
Through this seminar we invite you into a discussion about these opportunities and especially regarding what the relevant concrete steps could be to nurture the pluriverse and respectful learning across the global South and North.
- Escobar, A. (2018). Designs for the pluriverse: Radical interdependence, autonomy, and the making of worlds. Duke University Press.
- Harding, S. (2018). One planet, many sciences. Constructing the pluriverse: The geopolitics of knowledge, 39-62.
- Kothari, A., Salleh, A., Escobar, A., Demaria, F., & Acosta, A. (Eds.). (2019). Pluriverse: A post-development dictionary. Tulika Books and Authorsupfront.
- Verran, H. (1998). Re-imagining land ownership in Australia. Postcolonial Studies: Culture, Politics, Economy, 1(2), 237-254.