Cultivating ways of knowing for transformations


The basic assumption of western schoolarization and academia is that we are individuals (body and mind) who "appear" in an unconscious universe, made of inert matter and devoid of meaning. This belief promotes individualistic and materialistic attitudes that objectify life and are inculcated across the globe through neo-colonial institutions and dynamics such as school, university, government, market, etc.

Global environmental change, inequality and the other existential crises in which we are trapped are rooted in the hegemony of individualistic materialism and the monoculture of knowledge that justifies it. Addressing these crises involves decolonising the mind by cultivating in each person a diversity of ways of being and knowing, but... How can we decolonise ourselves? The good news is that outside the dominant Western culture there are still thousands of ways of being and knowing that assume a meaningful and relational universe in which the material world is only a useful, but not absolute, way of perceiving. These cultures can be a source of inspiration. The bad news is that these alternatives are rapidly disappearing or are subjected to dominant practices and discourses that silence, extract, domesticate or oppress marginalised and alternative voices.

Decolonisation begins with recognising the materialistic and individualistic beliefs in ourselves, but that is only a first step. The real work consists of unlearning and undoing the monoculture fields that we have labored, through habit and repetition, deep within ourselves. In this series of videos, we will discuss experiences in Latin America that can inspire or guide processes to unlearn and undo monocultural practices rooted within us, and to learn to cultivate a truly plural and transformative base for ways of knowing.



Using “cultivation" as a metaphor, this project will bring together four virtual conversations; their content and themes will be co-constructed and re-signified by those collaborating in the project. The proposed themes are:

Conversatorios Metáfora



Conversatory 1 - Regenerating the soil for new roots

What you will see in this first video is a conversation over 'low flame', in which four knowledges cultivators from Colombia and Mexico 'dig' into the roots of their own knowledge systems, and share how through experience and reflection, they have transitioned towards more sustainable and plural ways of seeing and understanding the world. These cultivators question the forms of knowledge that were imposed on them and how they have opened themselves, not without conflict, to new voices, ideas, elements and substances that have nourished and transformed their ways of apprehending and cultivating. Their proposals and reflections include:

Some of the questions that emerge from the conversation are: Is it possible to transform the ways in which we perceive and understand what surrounds us? What structures do we need to break down? Who can we count on in this journey? What are the opportunities to transform ourselves? What challenges does this transformation imply?

Listen in this video these and other reflections on how to take advantage of the cracks in our own soil, and how to aerate it, decompact it and, ultimately, regenerate it in order to collectively build a global soil suitable for a polyculture of knowledges and ways of knowing.

(By David Manuel-Navarrete, Almendra Cremaschi, Patricia Pérez-Belmont, Lakshmi Charli-Joseph, J. Mario Siqueiros-García, & Hallie Eakin)




"Within and across the various strands in this particular conversation, ‘social’ and ‘natural’ implications unfold inseparably together. A resulting vision emerges of deeply entangled political ecologies: in which ambiguous relations and flowing processes matter more than rigid categories and fixed structures. That all this is achieved through the little rectangular frames of Zoom, is all the more to the authors’ credit. I can’t wait for the next instalment…" Andy Stirling

In the next conversatory, ¨Planting shared dreams¨, we will ask ourselves how to build bridges and implement shared visions...



Blogs and related content

This project is part of a series of events occuring during the Methods year of the STEPS Centre, aiming to discuss how to challenge sustainability research. Challenging Research
Read our first blog about diverse initiatives in Argentina, Mexico and Kenya on different methodological challenges and ways to catalyze change towards more just worlds. Waves of challenging research for sustainability


The project Cultivating ways of knowing for transformations is coordinated by Umbela Transformaciones Sostenibles A.C. and LANCIS-IE-UNAM, in collaboration with IIMAS-UNAM and SOS-ASU, with the support of the STEPS Centre, and as part of the series Challenging research for sustainability in which ARIN - Africa Research and Impact Network also participates.