Animist Engagements: Creativity, Ecology and Indigeneity

Animist 1

Series Lead: Sam Durrant (English)

Series Conveners:

Research context

While colonial anthropology understood animism as a primitive, magical mode of thinking to be superseded by religion and then science, contemporary anthropology has returned to animism as a salutary alternative to the processes of objectification and deanimation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

Series aims

This seminar series asks how we might engage with animism without turning it into the neo-colonial object of Western academic enquiry? How might we collaborate with the diverse spiritual practices of animists in order to participate creatively in our more than human world?

Seminars will explore animism’s vexed relation to the disciplines of academia; collaborations with indigenous artists and spiritual leaders; the legacy of cave paintings and therianthropy; animism and poetry; African animisms; puppetry; animism and modernity; animist ecologies.

Series events

Undisciplining Animism: Sadler Launch event (9 October 2019)

Animism and Cinema (11 December 2019)

Poetry and animism: Reenchanting the World (13 February 2020)

Future events will include:

  • Song, dance and storytelling (workshop led by Tawana Cruz, the spiritual leader of Kariri Xoco Indians, Brazil).

  • Animism and visual art, from cave paintings to contemporary film.

  • African animisms.

  • Puppetry arts and pan-troglodytes (a lecture/performance by Jane Taylor).

  • Animism in Freud and Marx.

  • Animist ecologies (a symposium co-hosted with the Environmental Humanities Research Group).

If you need further information about this Seminar Series please email the Seminar Research Administrator Dominic O’Key.