Geographies of the Pluriverse: Decolonial Thinking and Ontological Conflict on Colombia’s Pacific Coast

Authors: Ulrich Oslender*, FIU
Topics: Political Geography, Latin America, Anthropocene
Keywords: Political Geography, Afro-Colombia, Aquatic Space, Coloniality of Power, Modernity, Third Space, Utopia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: 8201, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Recent debates in decolonial thinking have engaged the notion of the “pluriverse” to question the concept of universality at the heart of Western epistemology and hermeneutics that has historically underpinned processes of colonial domination and exploitation. The idea of the pluriverse calls for a co-existence of many worlds as an acknowledgement of the entanglements of diverse cosmologies. These entanglements are often of a conflictual nature, in that different ways of being in the world are intricately linked through the colonial matrix of power, leading to what has been termed “ontological conflict”. While much of this literature on decoloniality is highly sophisticated on a conceptual level, it often displays a dearth of ethnographic evidence, which would strengthen its theoretical claims. In this paper I will attend to this critique by first reviewing the principal arguments regarding the pluriverse and ontological conflict to then offer an in-depth examination of what such a pluriverse might actually look like in particular places. For this I examine the world in the Pacific coast region of Colombia that is constituted through what I call the “aquatic space” – an assemblage of relations resulting from human entanglements with an aquatic environment characterized by intricate river networks, significant tidal ranges, and labyrinthine mangrove swamps. This aquatic space, I argue, has informed the political organization of Afro-Colombian communities in the region in a conflict with capitalist modernity, which, crucially, is not merely about land rights and resource extraction, but an ontological conflict over ways of being in the world.

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