Despite its commitment to the reduction and transformation of various types of violence, the field of peacebuilding largely relies upon Westernized forms of knowledge that exclude indigenous and other non-Westernized epistemologies. This privileging of certain forms of knowledge and modes of knowledge production risks implicating the field, as presently constituted, in patterns of epistemic violence traceable to the enduring legacies of colonization. Decolonial theory challenges Westernized scholars and practitioners of peacebuilding to fight this exclusion through the cultivation of a future in which many non-Westernized ways of knowing and being in the world can co-exist without fear of erasure—a condition described as pluriversality.
Drawing insights from decolonial theory, Western political theory, and the theory and practice of peacebuilding, this project examines the possibility of developing approaches to peacebuilding dedicated to the pursuit of pluriversality by exploring decolonial claims that certain shared concepts—potentially including peace itself— can function as a “connectors” through which to pursue pluriversal dialogue between Westernized and non-Westernized ways of knowing and being in the world. However, recurrent failures within the field of peacebuilding to engage in sufficiently equitable dialogue with non-Westernized understandings of peace indicate an urgent need for new theoretical and practical resources to enable Westernized scholars and practitioners to participate in genuinely pluriversal dialogue.
To aid in this process, this project develops a simultaneously deconstructive and dialogical approach to pluriversal dialogue from a Westernized positionality that dramatically expands upon existing investigations into the decolonial applications of the work of Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The project then tests the resources toward pluriversal dialogue gleaned from Wittgenstein against the “connector” treated at the greatest length in the decolonial literature: democracy. Focusing on the work of two Western democratic theorists—Chantal Mouffe and James Tully—who draw on similar Wittgensteinian resources to engage with non-Westernized forms of democratic theory and practice, the project indicates the potential risks and rewards of using these resources as a method of approaching pluriversal dialogue around specific “connectors” from a Westernized positionality.
The project concludes by returning to the question of whether peace (like democracy) possesses a similar potential to function as a “connector” around which to engage in pluriversal dialogue. Given the presence of non-Westernized accounts of peace that reflect the decolonial values of pluriversality, the project concludes that pluriversal peacebuilding is possible, but will require a fundamental shift in the epistemic politics of the field of peacebuilding.