The Universalist/Localist Dilemma

Everyone of us, non-Westerners, BIPOC, BAME, immigrants, disabled folks, women, etc. who has tried to develop a career in science, philosophy, art, literature or in academia in general knows well the loose-loose dilemma of having to decide whether to try to contribute to philosophy, science, art, whatever as it is already recognised in mainstream metropolitan centres or to align our work with the more local needs and perspectives of our closest circumstances. And we al know the risks and disadvantages of each one:

If you chose to pursue a localised conception of knowledge/science/art/etc. and its method …

  1. Your results will be disregarded as being of relevance only to your local situation
  2. You will be criticised for aligning with local nationalist political regimes, which usually will mean ‘fascist’ nationalist regimes
  3. You will be criticised for failing to contribute anything original (Mariategui apud. Nuccetelli 2002: 525) and/or of value according to the metropolitan universalist conception of knowledge/science/art/etc. – of ‘‘lack of intelligibility … and frequent violations of the rules of correct thinking” (Ruíz-Aho’s 2011). The very status of your work as genuinely scientific, philosophical, artistic, etc. will be challenged or downright dismissed.
  4. Your work will be “triangulat[ed] back to prior notions of what mainstream [epistemic or aesthetic] communities already recognise as incontrovertible” (Ruíz-Aho’s 2011: 315) i.e., people will not try to understand your work in its own terms or in response to its own questions, etc.but will focus only on those parts that “are deemed sufficiently similar to what [they] are already doing, or insofar as [your] concerns overlap with [their] own.” (Alexus McLeod 2020)
  5. Your work will be exoticized (Khakpour 2017)
  6. Depending on how broad you conceive your local condition, you might be accused of dividing the resistance to the hegemonic conception of science/knowledge (Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman 2020)
  7. You will be accused of defining your local situation in opposition to a hegemonic one instead of in its own terms; you will be told, for example, that LatinAmerican traditions of thought do not need Western recognition as philosophy or science for their validity and that to pursue such recognition reinforces its subordinated status (Hurtado 2013).

But iff you chose to pursue an universalist conception of knowledge/science and its method, …

  1. You will be criticised of false consciousness, lack of authenticity and/or mimicking the metropolis’ way of doing things (Salazar Bondy 1968, Villoro 2015, Pereda 2013).
  2. You will be criticised for aligning with metropolitan political regimes, which usually will mean ‘colonialist’ metropolitan regimes
  3. You will be criticised for not caring about the pressing concerns of your circumstances and of your people (Hurtado 2013).
  4. You will be told “… but why don’t you write what you know?” (Khakpour 2017)
  5. Given your outsider status, i.e. your material exclusion from metropolitan social networks, your contributions will be excluded and plain ignored in the very debates your work is trying to contribute to (Acosta & Marechal 2014).

I am sure I am missing other challenges, so please add your own in the commentaries.


Acosta, Diana & Patricia Marechal (2014) Contribution to Susana Siegel (coord.) “Reflexiones sobre el uso del inglés y el español en filosofía analítica“, Informes del Observatorio de la Lengua Española y las Culturas Hispánicas en los Estados Unidos / Observatorio Reports. 006-12/2014SP

Coleman, Nathaniel Adam Tobias (2020) “My Journey In Our StruggleBiopolitical Philosophy.

Hurtado, Guillermo (2013) “Filosofía analítica en lengua vernácula“. Crítica 45(133): 107-110.

Khakpour, Porochista (2017) “How to Write Iranian-America, or The Last Essay“, Catapult.

McLeod, Alexus (2020) “How Do we Diversify Philosophy? Pluralism Rather than Inclusivism” Blog of the American Philosophical Association.

Pereda, Carlos (2013) La filosofía en México en el siglo XX Apuntes de un participante, México: CONACULTA

Ruíz-Aho,Elena (2011) “Latin American Philosophy at a Crossroads“, review essay on Susana Nuccetelli, Ofelia Schutte, and Otávio Bueno’s Companion to Latin American Philosophy, Human Studies, 34, 309

Salazar Bondy, Sebastián (1968) ¿Existe una filosofía de nuestra América? . México D.F.: Siglo XXI

Villoro, Luis (2015) El concepto de ideología y otros ensayos, Fondo de Cultura Economica

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