An attempt to make the pluriverse manifest with pluriversal resources (readings, screenings, podcasts, tools and practices).
In Designs for the Pluriverse (2018), Arturo Escobar draws on many authors who inspired his thinking. In the spirit of acknowledging those who came before us, Wong and Krier are collecting strands that can “contribute to design discourse through the elaboration of the cultural background of design, at a time when designers are rediscovering people’s ability to shape their worlds through relational and collaborative tools and solutions.” (Escobar 2018).
If you would like to suggest a resource to add to those collected here, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Architecture without Architects
Key to Escobar’s understanding of what design for autonomy could be is the question: can design enable communal forms of (territorial) autonomy underlying transition visions of marginalised groups? More concretely, he asks: where, when and how can design be appropriated by subaltern communities engaged in territorial struggles agains extractive globalisation? (p. 15)
According to Escobar, “every community practices the design of itself.” Communal autonomy therefore implies “autonomy as an expression of radical interdependence” [as opposed to the Western view of autonomy as an individual right, ed.]
Escobar links communal autonomy to pensamiento autonómico (trans. autonomous thought) in the Global South: “Together with the recrafting of communal forms of knowing, being, and doing, these notions—autonomía and comunalidad—and their associated practices may be seen as laying the ground for a new design thought with and within communities.”
“Comunalidad is what brings together the community itself. It’s what in-between each member of the community. It's kind of like the binding, or the glue – you can call it many ways. But it’s basically the energy that is between those people that make the community happen.” – Miquel Hervás Gómez, Amsterdam, Sept 8 2020.
The term comunalidad was coined at the end of the 1970s by two Oaxacan thinkers, Floriberto Díaz Gómez and Jaime Martínez Luna. Esteva also introduces comunalitario, or communalitarian, different from the well-established comunitario (communitarian). This neologism is helpful in establishing some distance from the association of the communal with what is often described as “communitarian violence” in South Asia. (Notes to Chapter six, p. 254
Visit the Critical Zones online exhibition at ZKM Karlsruhe or online – it's dedicated to the critical situation our planet finds itself in, and maps creative responses on how to “sense this moving earth” (Latour 2020).
Sit down for the online lecture series Decolonising Europe in International Politics organised by the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies in summer 2020. "Some of the sessions are more conceptual bringing the decolonial debates to a broad academic audience, and other sessions are narrowed down to specific topics that serve as thematic discussions of decolonising and decentering knowledge and research in a European context.”
Dee Sitonu a Weti (Stones Have Laws)
Stones Have Laws is a film made by Lonnie van Brummelen, Siebren de Haan en Tolin Erwin Alexander, in close cooperation with the Saamaka and Okanisi Maroon communities along the Surinam River. This visual meditation casts the forest, river and wind as protagonists – and sheds light on Maroon livelihoods today. In reenacted situations, the filmmakers "show us how [the riverine and forest communities] live, how they consult their ancestors and forest spirits, and how this is all integrated with the use of modern tools. (…) But to start off, members of the Maroon community discuss their feelings about the film. Should they put their trust in the good intentions of the filmmakers?” (Citation: Idfa).
This film was recommended by ArtEZ Studium Generale, who screened this film as part of their research program: "LAND: on climate, ownership and coexistence” in Fall 2020. See Warming up to the Pluriverse #5: bonus track.
Extractive and (neo)colonial practices (fracking, mining) defuture worlds by amputating and depleting material and cultural resources. Australian design theorist Tony Fry speaks of the “defuturing effects” of modern design, by which he means design’s contribution to the systemic conditions of structured unsustainability that eliminate possible futures. “Can design be extracted from its embeddedness in modernist unsustainable and defuturing practices, and redirected toward other ontological commitments, practices, narratives, and performances?” asks Escobar.
Defuturing. A New Design Philosophy
Dig into Fry Tony, Defuturing. A New Design Philosophy, Bloomsbury Publishing, 1999/2020. The book addresses through hands-on case studies "what it means to comprehend that we live in world that is taking away futures for ourselves and non-human others.”
Design for Whose Real World?
“There are professions more harmful than industrial design, but only a very few of them.” Revisit Papanek’s “Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change” (1970), a design classic to which Escobar dedicates a whole chapter of his own book, by visiting the exhibition “Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design” curated by design historian Alison J. Clarke at Design Museum Den Bosch (on view till Feb 7 2021).
See: Clarke Alison J., Victor Papanek, Designer for the Real World, MIT Press, 2020.
Designing in Dark Times
Meander through the world of thoughts and actions that Hannah Ahrendt has given us in heritage, discussed through a diverse group of contributors in Tassinari Virginia and Staszowski Eduardo (eds.), Designing in Dark Times. An Arendtian Lexicon, New York: Bloomsbury, 2020
Designs for the Pluriverse
Escobar Arturo, Designs for the Pluriverse. Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2018.
Tip from anthropologist Francesca Cozzolino, Plateforme “art, design et société"
The Preface and Introduction are available at Duke Press. The full PDF is available on academia.edu if you make a profile and upload writings of your own. Escobar just published another book, Pluriversal Politics. The Real and the Possible (Duke University Press, 2020) that builds on Designs for the Pluriverse. Read an interview with Arturo Escobar on Rorotoko.
Take on a provocation by the Pluriversity Collective: inspiring scores for action that question dominant modes of knowing in the west, inspired by Designs for the Pluriverse. "[Escobar’s] approach to design showcases how designing anything (objects, tools, knowledge, policies, or institutions) simultaneously designs ways of being. And unfortunately, the designs for universality that typify the western university eclipse many possibilities for knowing and being in the world.”
Ahmed Ansari, "Somatechnics of Critical Design “ in: Somatechnics Journal of Bodies, Technologies, Power. Tip from Stacey Moran, member of the Pluriversity Collective and of the Center for Philosophical Technologies (CPT).
“Disoñar is made up of two words, diseñar (to design) and soñar (to dream); the intention is to bridge those two activities, formulate new utopias, and come up with creative solutions to livelihood problems. The concept started to be used in Cali by the poet and environmentalist León Octavio in the late 1980s (…) It is now used by a few groups in several countries in Latin America; there is a periodic “International Encounter of Disoñadores” and meetings of disoñadores para el Buen Vivir (Disoñadores for Buen Vivir). Every year, peasant activists and intellectuals gather in Manizales, Colombia, for an annual gathering called Ecovida (EcoLife), whose purpose is to disoñar the territory and the defense of life.” (Notes to Conclusion, p. 257)
Exploring the Universe
Decentre your gaze with Errant Journal – “by embracing the limits of our situated knowledge and the meaninglessness of a singular vantage point, Errant questions the politics of knowledge and representation through language, art and other disciplines. With its decolonial and pluriversal approach to themed issues related to (a.o.) geo/body-politics, museology, ecocide, and activism, it aims to connect theory with practice in an expansive field of knowledge.”
Tip from decolonial scholar Rolando Vázquez.
Tune into online radio platform Firefly Frequencies, Vernacular Radio for Insurgent Forms of Life and (un)Learning. This initiative wants to be "a place of gathering where many voices can meet, mix, transform” and is an emanation of the research of both ecoversities.org and FHU.art around forms of collective pedagogies. Radio is seen by its founding members as “a membrane, a communal body that perpetually reinvents itself through different modalities and temporalities, through the dimensions of struggle, creation and care and the shared powers of reception and receptivity.”
Tip from sociologist and curator Alessandra Pomarico.
For the Wild Radio
Go for a walk with For the wild radio. “Key topics include the struggle to protect wild nature, to promote ecological renewal and resistance and to heal from the disconnection furthered by consumer culture and human supremacy. Not only does this work aim to produce an anthology of the Anthropocene, but it also strives to support a new paradigm of earth renewal through conservation and restoration ecology.”
Tip from eco-artist Carmen Bouyer.
- There is some industry on the fringes of the city.
- His organisation is a fringe group (= one that represents the views of a small number of people).
- A decorative edge of narrow strips of material or threads on a piece of clothing or material
Source: Oxford Dictionary
The Future as a Cultural Fact
Look back and ahead with APUJARAI Arjun. The Future a Cultural Fact. Essays on the Global Condition, Verso Books, 2013.
Tip from curator Mariana Pestana, Warming Up to the Pluriverse #3: On imagining beginnings.
The Ghetto Film School
“Halletmek is a Turkish verb that refers to fixing, or handling something. We say I will halletmek this job, for instance. Then you know it’ll get done. There’s a confidence in this word that I like.”
Fishing rod stand, Unkapanı Atatürk Bridge, 2017. Image: Nur Horsanalı
Based in the popular neighbourhood Beyoğlu, İstanbul, social innovation platform Imecelab took this "collective way of problem solving stemming from Anatolian people” as an inspiration to search for new business models. "We don’t know how to be a part of solutions although we wish to be a part of it when it comes to social issues about education, environment and health. The answer to 'How can I do it?' for us, is to transform ourselves and our surroundings as we produce.”
In Praise of Shadows
Knowledges born in the struggle
Engage with korjaal-ing space, a web archive and research journal set up by Sean Leonard, the 2020 awardee of the Tilting Axis / Het Nieuwe Instituut Research Fellowship.
To find out more about Sean Leonard, listen to Warming Up to the Pluriverse #5: On celebrating smallness.
Letter to Europe
“What is at stake in decolonising design is our relation to earth, and the dignifying of relational worlds. (…) Can we think of relational design as a decolonial form of being with earth and of worlding the world? Can we think of design as a mode of listening?”
See Decolonial Listening in About the Pluriverse.
Mamihlapinatapai is a beautifully succinct fuegan word referring to seeing and being seen, the meaning of which Chilean curator Camila Marambio phrases as “I know that you know that we both know what we want, but neither of us, neither of I’s, is willing to say so.”
Matríztica is a Southern World School of thought, co-founded by Humberto Maturana and Ximena Davila. "We are social beings and that the roots of our identity arise from our relationship with others; understand that we are loving beings not from a romantic perspective, but also from a biological point of view, and that our great treasure to generate creative and collaborative spaces is precisely in our history as biological-cultural beings.”
Meeting Arne Naess High Up in the Mountains
Within the field of environmental philosophy, Arne Naess is perhaps most known for coining the term “deep ecology”, an approach to environmental problems that looks for its roots deep in the structure of our western society and the world views that guide it.
Mothers of Invention
Tune into an energetic podcast series where feminine leaders point the way to inclusive climate justice. “Climate change is a man-made problem. With a feminist solution!” Episode 4, Series 3 for instance addresses regenerative farming, which Mull participant Anne van Leeuwen also practices at her farm Bodemzicht (freely translated as 'soil perspective').
Tip from climate justice activist Suzanne Dhaliwal. Listen to Getting in the mood for Mull #1.
A multifocal glossary of arts education
Comment on this and other glossaries out there. There are many, and they can help us imagine the pluriverse: the one initiated by Another Roadmap School includes terms such as Educación Popular (derived from Paolo Freire’s Theatre of the Oppressed). The team behind Another Roadmap “do[es] not propose to re-discuss Paulo Freire’s texts, but the way his proposals were read, digested, appropriated and articulated with political-pedagogical projects rooted in particular struggles and realities.”
Tip by Stéphane Verlet Bottéro, co-founder of the collective School of Mutants, 2021 Research Fellow at Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Multiplicity of the Other
Müşterek is an Arabic word that is making a comeback in Turkish activist circles. With the -ler suffix it designates the action of commoning in territorial struggles. See the Müşterekler initiative, which gathers research on commons, among others on the politics of the commons with regards to water.
– İlke Ercan, Testing İstanbul’s Waters backstage helper. See Thirst Talk #4.
The Oxford dictionary defines ontology as a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of existence. For Arturo Escobar and affiliated thinkers such as Mario Blaser,Marisol de la Cadena, Winograd & Flores, and Maturana & Varela, ontology deals with modes of existence at three levels: ‘real’ existing entities; practices that ‘enact’ worlds; and of narratives (themselves embodiments of the interrelations between entities, practices and worlds). By nature, design designs ways of being and narratives (Willis 2005). It is also rooted in pre-conceived ideas of what is real: in this sense, design is ontological.What Escobar calls ‘ political ontology’ stresses the political dimension of particular ways of living, and vice versa, the ontological dimension of any politics. In his eyes, design needs to turn towards relational ontologies that acknowledge the rich network of (material) interrelations, and unlearn modern, dual ontologies (nature/culture; body/subject etc.) which perpetrate instrumental relations of use, such as domination or extraction.
Source: Escobar Arturo, Sentir-penser avec la terre. Une écologie au-delà de l’occident. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2018, pp. 25-26; pp. 114-158 (Chapitre 4. Faire monde: ontologie et politique)
“Ooze is really like a slow process of a liquid that gets gradually absorbed by the ground, without boundaries. It became a synonym for the way we work. It can be used to describe water but also other flows.”
– Eva Pfannes (OOZE). See Thirst Talk #3.
From the Latin palimpsestus, from Greek palimpsēstos (scraped again), from palin + psēn (to rub, scrape); akin to Sanskrit psāti, babhasti (he chews). Originally referring to “writing material such as a parchment or tablet used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased”, the term palimpsest has been extended to the material world (an architectural palimpsest), or to social and cultural phenomena to describe “something having usually diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface”. Source: Merriam Webster.
“Design has doubtlessly been a central political technology of modernity. (…) Design, through its materiality, hardwires particular kinds of politics into bodies, spaces or objects. (…) In contrast one might focus on how design might broaden the range of possibles ways of being through our bodies, spaces, and materialities. How to think about design’s capacities and potentiality through a wide spectrum of imaginations?”
The Politics of design
Train to act with Rubio Fernando Domínguez, Fogué Uriel, “Unfolding the Political Capacities of Design” in: Yaneva Albena, Zaera-Polo Alejandro, What Is Cosmopolitical Design? Design, Nature and the Built Environment, Taylor & Francis, 2015.
The Politics of Nature. Designing for an Ontological Turn
Listen to Desis Philosophy Talks #7.2. The Politics of Nature. Designing for an Ontological Turn. Which thinking in contemporary philosophy and anthropology can help designers – and particularly those dealing with subfields of design such as Participatory Design and Design for Social Innovation – to develop non-anthropocentric reflective practices that might account for the radical interdependence between people and the planet? Which kinds of transformative reflective practices might these modes of thinking possibly nurture?
A Polyphonic Dictionary
Dwell in this great read, accessible both for makers and thinkers, and LEARN the terms that can help all of us navigate towards the pluriverse.
Kothari Ashish, Salleh Ariel, Escobar Arturo, Demaria Federico and Acosta Alberto Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary, Delhi: Tulika/AuthorsUpfront (AUF), 2019. License: Creative Commons. Accessible online.
“Simply put, radical interdependence means nothing pre-exists the relations that constitute it.” (Escobar 2021) Interestingly, while the etymology of the word radical can be traced back to radici, roots, and could thus be seen as “ a rooting back ” (Vázquez 2019), radical is often thought of as a (modernist, patriarchal) tabula rasa gesture - starting from scratch. For Escobar however, the point is that “ the world of the other is also our world. Because we are radically interconnected.”
"I feel comfortable on the shadows. In between spaces and in between people. Networking and connecting dots." – Miquel Hervás Gómez, Sept 8 2020.
Slow Down Fast, A Toda Raja
Reconnect to your heart space through this sensual conversation between Chilean 'weavers of life' Cecilia Vicuña and Camila Marambio. Cecilia: "(…) One of my ancient poems is about the word recorder, which means to touch again the chords of the heart. ‘Re’ is again, and ‘cordar' comes from ‘core', and ‘core' is the heart."
Marambio Camila, Vicuña Cecilia, Slow Down Fast, A Toda Raja (An ancestral festering wound), Berlin: Errant Bodies, 2019, p.22.
The Smooth and the Striated
Deterritorialise with Deleuze Gille and Guattari Félix, The Smooth & the Striated in: Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F., A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by B. Massumi. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013. Tip from textile thinker Joke Robaard, Warming Up Talk #1: On becoming networks.
“It’s a survival constellation, in a way.” This is how artist and researcher Joke Robaard describes an ongoing textile work hanging on the wall of her studio in Wittenburg, Amsterdam, June 5 2020.
Tools for conviviality
Able to change easily from one activity to another or able to be used for many different purposes. To move with the times (idiom). Source: Cambridge online dictionary.
Voices of the North Sea
Listen to Voices of the North Sea. For the Ambassade of the Noordzee (trans. North Sea Embassy), radio producer Jesper Buursink (Vroege Vogels), together with editor Carlijn Haringsma and radio producer Eli Guerrero travel along the countries bordering that sea. On the way they meet a colourful group of people who are all connected to the North Sea in one way or another.
Who is We?
The team behind the Dutch contribution to the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale team (Debra Solomon and Afaina De Jong, Francien van Westrenen) asks Who is we?, in response to the biennale’s theme of How will we live together? Read Cahier 1: Values for Survival, edited by Caroline Nevejan and Huda AbiFarès, with interviews offering different perspectives on 21st century Values for Survival.
Weaving the pluriversity
Meander with 2019-2021 Rijksacademie resident artist Aldo Esparza Ramos. Ramos is a griot, a traveller-poet, a storyteller, an artist. He guards ancestral memories. His practice is directed towards social healing; as reconstitution, reparation and protection of ancestral knowledges: “ The pluriversity is a weaving that connects all these knowledges and conversations. It is not a place of enunciation but a place of listening, to become a host for transformation from owning the land to owing the Earth.”
Watch Aldo Ramos' Rijksacademie Open Archive Talk (34 min), June 28 2021
What is the ‘West’?
Take on this long read in which the expansion and crisis of the ‘West’ are retraced as a utopian and imperialist construct in the light of Ghandi’s teachings: “(…) rather than following the European or American example, as in modernisation theory, the nonviolent struggles of colonised peoples should inspire the West to recall its own lost ideals”. A read that sheds light on the cracks of the current Western civilizational crisis.
Wong & Krier included this read in their Fertile Selves, Fertile Berlin reader.
Yard tradition is a big thing in Trinidad – it has a resonance, “culturally, ethically and performatively” for the Trinidadians. Many things are named after it, and have evolved from its creative (and sometimes also illegal) use: the so-called barrack yard, measuring only a few square meters, inherited from the time of slavery; the yearly Hosay Yard Festival; the ….. theatre even stands on the same yard site where open air improv were first carried out. “Invariably the production of carnival costumes happens, in a massive way, in the backyards of people’s homes. (...) Because of the spatial parameters of yard spaces, negotiating is important.” – Sean Leonard in conversation with Wong & Krier, nov 12 2020.