Futures: Carrying Forward
More than One World

Dora Mugerwa
Operations and Engagement Coordinator
Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab

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The world is not singular, yet that is the mode of thought we impose on it and its inhabitants. Using singular word forms and meanings in discussions about problem solving is in itself a problem. Narrowing down the diversity of people (by race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, culture, social status, etc.) and communities into sole entities (i.e. “a society”) erases crucial facets of distinct ways of being in the world. It enforces the colonization of worlds by a single ideology, one that UC/Berkeley Associate Professor Ramón Grosfoguel calls a “….‘universality’...[based on] the knowledge produced by men of five countries [the US, France, England, Germany and Italy]….”1

So, in thinking about what we as a society must carry forward, I want to question who the “we” here is. Whose autonomies are included? Whose voices take center stage?

In the western and Eurocentric world I live in, too often I see the white savior dynamic perpetuated in widespread narratives. People of color and indigenous people are considered receivers of knowledge and solutions, rarely spoken of as teachers or innovators. Repeatedly viewed as epistemically superior, the theories produced by Euro-descendent men are, as Grosfoguel states, assumed “to be sufficient to explain the social/historical realities of the rest of the world.”1 How do we find meaning and decide what to carry forward when this damaging hierarchy is continuously embedded in our psyches?

We have lost the ability to engage with communities outside of this “universality.” We hold on to a singular worldview that disregards people with varied ways of life impacting how and what we choose to bring forth. After not just a year but rather decades and centuries of pain, sickness, violence, revelation and historic revolution, these life experiences influence the different perspectives we might utilize to regenerate our futures.

Who we are even shapes how we define the word “regenerate” since language alters the way we see our intertwined worlds. When open to interpretation beyond its normalized associations, “regenerate” can serve as the connective tissue between seemingly disparate connotations. This integration of diverse modes of thought allows us to conceive of stronger futures.

The Nature Lab’s recent Regeneration speaker series exemplified this expansion of meaning, with Black, Latinx, indigenous, multiethnic and multiracial contributors offering definitions and pathways based on their respective areas of knowledge production. The eight presenters spotlighted their philosophies by discussing what they think we should carry forward in order to form a regenerative future. Importantly, whether centered around biomimicry, indigenous artists, gentrification, ecological citizenship, farming, social practice, indigenous architecture or knowledge in art+science, the conversations were never singular. None of the discussions focused solely on art, community, history or nature. The speakers’ knowledge-sharing presented the cross section of these topics. They emphasized the plural intersections at which we live and demonstrated the varied answers to ways we can build equitable places on earth.

Ultimately, the conception of singularity or universality as defined above is a detriment to humanity. “The redesign of a society that works for everyone” remains “unfinished” because one society will never work for 7.8 billion people. It’s impossible. Focusing on the universal means that certain communities are left behind. Yet, we continue to miss the mark when we engage in notions of creating a better future through universal applications. As summarized by Grosfoguel, we need to “bring epistemic diversity to the canon of thought....”1

Humanity must carry forward plurality and let go of hierarchy in voices and existences. Let’s put in the labor to form not a future but rather multiple futures—worlds where we can all thrive.

1. Grosfoguel, Ramón. 2013. “The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities: Epistemic Racism/Sexism and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century.” pp. 73-90 in Conversations with Enrique Dussel on Anti-Cartesian Decoloniality & Pluriversal Transmodernity (Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Volume XI, Issue 1, 2013.) Belmont, MA: Okcir Press (an imprint of Ahead Publishing House).