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“How many worlds are there? One, but also many: Decolonial theory, comparison, ‘reality’”

New publication from Didier Zúñiga! “How many worlds are there? One, but also many: Decolonial theory, comparison, ‘reality’“, published in the European Journal of Political Theory.


Contemporary political theory (CPT) has approached questions of plurality and diversity by drawing rather implicitly on anthropological accounts of difference. This was the case with the ‘cultural turn’, which significantly shaped theories of multiculturalism. Similarly, the current ‘ontological turn’ is gaining influence and leaving a marked impact on CPT. I examine the recent turn and assess both the possibilities it offers and the challenges it poses for decentering CPT and opening radical, decolonial avenues for thinking difference otherwise. I take Paul Nadasdy’s critique of the ontological turn as an invitation to reflect on the methodological precepts that inform how the field frames the scope and limits of comparison. In pursuit of this, I examine the Zapatistas’ notion of a ‘world of many worlds’, which provides a way of approaching difference that captures the generative aspects of the ontological turn while avoiding the pitfalls of relativism and political inertia. I argue that the Zapatistas’ insights offer ethical guidance towards social and ecological thriving. Ultimately, my goal is to move CPT towards a more capacious form of making sense of what is out there in the world, and thus make room for better ways of inhabiting the Earth.