The ontological differences between wording and wordling the world

Carl Mika[1],Vanessa Andreotti[2], Garrick Cooper[3], Cash Ahenakew[4] and Denise Silva[5]

[1] University of Waikato, Faculty of Education,
Dr Carl Mika is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, University of Waikato, New. Zealand, where he is also the director of the Center for Global Studies. He is Maori of the Tuhourangi and Ngati Whanaunga iwi.
[2] University of British Columbia, Faculty of Education,
Dr Vanessa Andreotti is a Professor at the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia, in Canada. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequalities and Global Change. She comes from a mixed heritage family of Guarani ancestry.
[3] University of Canterbury, Aotahi School of Māori and Indigenous Studies,
Garrick Cooper is a Senior Lecturer in Aotahi School of Māori and Indigenous Studies at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. His research is concerned with decoloniality and critical ontological dimensions of indigenous knowledge systems.
[4] University of British Columbia, Faculty of Education,
Dr Cash Ahenakew is an Associate Professor at Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia, in Canada. He is a First Nations’ scholar whose research experience and interests focus on the areas of international indigenous studies in education, indigenous curriculum and pedagogy, and indigenous health and well-being.
[5] University of British Columbia, Social Justice Institute,
Dr Denise Ferreira da Silva is a Professor and Director at the Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia. Her academic writings and artistic practice address the ethical questions of the global present and target the metaphysical and ontoepistemological dimensions of modern thought.
Corresponding author:
Vanessa Andreotti
6445 University Boulevard
Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z2


We propose a distinction between two onto-metaphysical orientations: one that reduces being to discursive practices, which we call ‘wording the world’; and another that manifests being as co-constitutive of a worlded world, where language is one amongst other inter-woven entities, which we call ‘worlding the world’. Speaking from Indigenous and racialized loci of enunciation, in this article we do not aim to dialectically propose an antithesis to the theses of modernity-coloniality or decoloniality, but to highlight the co-constitution of things in the world by making an ontology that is currently invisible, noticeably absent. We start with a brief outline of a common and arguably unavoidable pattern in scholarship in decolonial studies that tends to conflate knowing and being, inadvertently reproducing the modern-colonial grammar of wording the world that it, dialectically, aims to delink from.  We then present a Maori philosophy of language that grounds a completely different relationships between language, knowledge and being to those that can be imagined and experienced within the grammar of modernity. In the final section we explore the implications of this philosophy for the call of decolonizing discourse studies, offering some (im)practical suggestions, given the current context of intelligibility and affective investments in academic settings.

Keywords: modernity-coloniality, decolonial thought, Maori language, metaphysics of presence; Indigenous ways of being.


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