ABSTRACT. In this paper, I address the paradoxes that accompany the adoption and expansion of critical theory (CT) in Latin America, paying attention to the dis/continuities between Euro-American and Latin American critical theorising as well as what remains common to both. The first of these paradoxes is defined by the tensions between the emancipatory ethos of CT and its colonising dimension when adopted in the Global South, which results from its unexamined ontological assumptions. These ontological assumptions are analysed and challenged from the frameworks of relational ontologies and political ontology, making visible the ways in which they exercise ontological occupation in Latin America. The text engages then with analysing the im/possibilities of Latin American CT for upholding the multiple worlds that resist modernist ontologies. While Latin American CT inherits modernist ontological commitments, the grassroots (Black, Indigenous, peasant, popular) sources that nurture Latin American social thinking introduce an ontological diversity that produces generative tensions making Latin American CT more responsive to ontological difference. The limitations of academic modes of knowledge production are highlighted, and, yet, thinking through the works of Marisol de la Cadena, Arturo Escobar and Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, encourages and hints towards new pathways for more hopeful engagements with plural knowledges and plural worlds. The tensions this article raises are far from resolved by it, but its ‘hinting-towards’ new pathways is a way to open up more thoughtful discussion.

Keywords: critical theory; Global North-Global South; relational ontologies; political ontology; Latin America

How to cite: Jaramillo-Aristizabal, A. (2022). Critical theory and academia: Ontological im/possibilities for upholding plural worlds. Knowledge Cultures, 10(3), 126–149.

Received 11 July 2022 • Received in revised form 14 November 2022
Accepted 16 November 2022 • Available online 01 December 2022

Alejandra Jaramillo-Aristizabal
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Waipapa Taumata Rau/University of Auckland
Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand

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