Defying Control: Aspects of caring engagement between divergent knowledge practices

Working Paper
  • Published 20/03/17

In recent years, the notion Anthropocene has been celebrated for its potential to bridge modern divides between nature and culture as well as critiqued for embedding the fallacy of human control in its nub. Building on these recent debates, and using insights on ontological pluralism from anthropology and philosophy of science, I outline four conceptual aspects for enacting caring engagement between divergent practices. These aspects are: a) egalitarian commitment to sharing epistemological authority between practices; b) ontological sensitivity, by letting other practices define their own relational bases of knowing and making; c) non-subsumptive learning from other practices; and d) affinity in alterity, developed across widening divergence between practices. I argue that caring engagement may be central to transforming ‘modernist’ techno-scientific practices that are constituted by an ethos of control and by disqualification of diverse ways of knowing/ making. Relinquishing control and disqualification, modernist practices may undergo transformations to become minoritarian practices that admit uncertainty, ignorance, ambiguity, fluidity and fragility. In mutual engagement with each other, transforming minoritarian practices may become generative of diversity in the form of novel knowing/making practices immanent to their own heterogeneous worlds composed of human and nonhuman forces. Such unbounded ontological pluralism will not be realised by adopting aspects of caring engagement as fully-formed principles, but rather by admitting and reworking the aspects as open questions that find relevance in ongoing natural-cultural struggles for sustainability and emancipation.