Undisciplining Animism: Sadler 2019-20 Launch event

An event to share our diverse interests in animism, and screen and discuss a 10 minute film.

First event in the 2019-20 Sadler Seminar Series ‘Animist Engagements: Creativity, Ecology and Indigeneity’

While colonial anthropology understood animism as a primitive, magical mode of thinking to be superseded by religion and then science, contemporary anthropology has returned to animism as a salutary alternative to the processes of objectification and deanimation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.

However, this return to animism 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.

Seminar questions

  • How might our research be animated by the spirit of animism? What would it mean to engage in, rather than analyse, magical thinking? How do we move beyond the secular assumptions that govern academic research? How to avoid appropriation of indigenous practices of animism?
  • How do performance and practice-led research open up a space for animism?
  • How might animism redefine poiesis (world-making) and mimesis (imitation) as a transhuman field of creativity?
  • What does it mean to take animism seriously and what room for playfulness and humour does this leave (Okagbue 1997, Willerslev 2012)?
  • What does it mean to engage with animism as an environmental ethic (Abrams 1997) or ‘planetary consciousness’ (Spivak 2013)?
  • What forms of community and subjectivity does animism engender?
  • Is modernity animating as well as deanimating? How might pivotal thinkers of modernity (eg Darwin, Freud, Marx) be understood as closet animists, more interested in reanimating the world than demythologisation?

Please direct enquiries to Dominic O’Key D.E.OKey@leeds.ac.uk or Sam Durrant s.r.durrant@leeds.ac.uk