Critique’s Coloniality and Pluriversal Recognition: On Care as the Ecological Ground of Justice

When: Thursday, January 13th, 11.00 am - 1.00 pm

Where: Horst Schimanski Saal (in person or virtually)


Questions of justice lie at the heart of contemporary debates concerning reconciliation within postcolonial settler societies. What constitutes the just recognition of difference? Whose standards of justiciability count? Can postcolonial states recognise precolonial law? Is justice under legal pluralisms possible? Such questions often depend, however, on assumptions about how we conceive political legitimacy amidst difference. The story goes that the world presents itself as multiple and differential; how we order that world and our responses to it depends—we moderns are told—upon rational subjects cultivating a reflexive attitude to thought and action: critique. Critique is overwhelmingly framed as the most important epistemological grammar for ordering legitimately and with respect to difference. This paper argues, however, that normative concepts of critique and critical subjectivity, which are often taken as the modern, self-reflexive possibilities for articulating political and legal legitimacy are themselves products of colonial geographies and contemporary colonialities. Assuming critique and the critical attitude to be somehow inured from colonial reproduction and coloniality is short-sighted and mistaken. Indeed, if we begin our approach to ordering worlds and our responsibilities to them through epistemic critique, we reproduce, I argue, forms of colonial and epistemic violence. Using indigenous legal theory drawn from recent interventions by indigenous legal scholars into questions of just recognition in the Canadian context of political reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and their worlds, the paper argues two things: first, it problematises the notion that cultivating a critical attitude—or critique itself—is somehow free from the effects of coloniality; second, it argues that ethical ontologies emergent from ecological lifeworlds actually condition the possibility for critique, and that these differential conditions—care, reciprocity, freedom, love, etc—form the material ground and ecological basis for just recognition across pluriversal lifeworlds.

We aim to induce conversation around political and ecological responsibility to worlds of difference.

Questions for discussion might include, but of course are not limited to:

  1. What are the implications of pluriversality for world-systems thinking?
  2. Is an ontological commitment to plural worlds and, hence, plural orders impractical?
  3. Whose voices and orders are relevant to our many global and planetary challenges?
  4. How do we adjudicate between worlds and orders?

Organized by Dr Adriana Suárez Delucchi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Global Cooperation Research/Käte Hamburger Kolleg, University of Duisburg-Essen.

Please contact if you would like to participate.

Dr Mark Jackson
Associate Professor in Human Geography, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol

I am a human geographer with expertise in postcolonial, decolonial, and posthuman geographies, including interests in ecologies of thought and action, knowledge ecologies, critical theory, urban life, and political ecology.

Profile at the University of Bristol