Animist Engagements: Creativity, Ecology and Indigeneity. Sadler Seminar Series 2019/20

Partners and collaborators

We are forging links with a number of centres/indigenous groups/ animist practioners, including the KarirĂ­-Xoco of Brazil, the Centre for Environmental Research and Development, Kano, Nigeria, the Maguzawa of Nigeria, ehe Bureau National d'Ethnologie, Haiti, The Laboratory of Kinetic Objects, Cape Town, and the Leeds Poetry Centre.

Postgraduate students

Dominic O'Key (English) holds a six month postdoc from October 2019 to March 2020


While colonial anthropology understood animism as a primitive, magical mode of thinking to be superseded by religion and then science, contemporary environmental anthropology has returned to animism as a salutary alternative to the processes of objectification and deanimation that characterise humanity’s relationship to nature in the Anthropocene. 
Animism is critical to current global debates precisely because it conceives of the world not as a dualistic, hierarchical relation between ensouled—and therefore entitled--humans and other non-souled beings and objects, but as a relational meshwork of variously animated, ensouled, and agential persons (Vivieros de Castro 2014, Ingold 2011). For an animist, personhood is not an exclusively human property. When a shamanic !Kung artist declares ‘animals are people too’ (Mda 2013), he is not engaging in anthropomorphism but rather declaring a radically horizontal notion of personhood with profound political and environmental implications. 
However, this animist turn, dubbed the ‘new animism’ by Harvey (2006), potentially reinscribes animism and the indigenous peoples that continue to engage in animist practices as the objects of a Western academic gaze that cannot help but reproduce the neo-colonial dynamics of global knowledge and information flows. This seminar series thus places front and centre the problem of how to engage with animists and animism without turning them into the objects of disciplinary enquiry. It explores the possibility of becoming animated by animism, of being transformed by its own morphological energies. Although we draw on expertise from disciplines as diverse as anthropology, anthropology, literary and cultural studies, performance, environmental studies, religious studies and history, we seek to form a fluid collective that engages with animism not as the object of (inter-)disciplinary enquiry but as an anti-disciplinary, creative process, a way of being in the world in which we seek to become co-actors or participants. 
The seminar schedule is thus devised to explore the opportunities and contradictions of participants’ disciplinary relation to animism while also opening up the university space to animist or animism-inspired practitioners. 


We are developing a multi-user public website that can be used by indigenous groups to share knowledge and coordinate activism.

Publications and outputs

“Creaturely Mimesis: Life after Necropolitics in Chris Abani’s Song for Night” Forthcoming in Research in African Literatures 48.3 (August 2018).

Sam Durrant and Philip Dickinson, eds. Animism in a Planetary Frame. Special Issue of New Formations, forthcoming 2021

Project website