Tracing liminality, non-dualist philosophy, flat ontology, speculative feminism, feral biologies, techno and ancient animism, post-humanism, new materialism, object-oriented ontology, more-than-human, other-than-human, nonhuman agency
After a lengthy period of disinterest, post-modern anthropologists are increasingly engaging with the concept of animism. Modernism is characterized by a Cartesian subject-object dualism that divides the subjective from the objective, and culture from nature; in this view, Animism is the inverse of scientism, and hence inherently invalid. Drawing on the work of Bruno Latour, these anthropologists question these modernist assumptions, and theorize that all societies continue to "animate" the world around them, and not just as a Tylorian survival of primitive thought. Rather, the instrumental reason characteristic of modernity is limited to our "professional subcultures," which allows us to treat the world as a detached mechanical object in a delimited sphere of activity. We, like animists, also continue to create personal relationships with elements of the so-called objective world, whether pets, cars or teddy-bears, who we recognize as subjects. As such, these entities are "approached as communicative subjects rather than the inert objects perceived by modernists."
The "new animism" emerged largely from the publications of the anthropologist Irving Hallowell which were produced on the basis of his ethnographic research among the Ojibwe communities of Canada in the mid-20th century. For the Ojibwe encountered by Hallowell, personhood did not require human-likeness, but rather humans were perceived as being like other persons, who for instance included rock persons and bear persons. For the Ojibwe, these persons were each willful beings who gained meaning and power through their interactions with others; through respectfully interacting with other persons, they themselves learned to "act as a person".
Common motivation for the "materialist turn" is a perceived neglect or diminishment of matter in the dominant Euro-Western traiditon as a passive substance intrinsically devoid of meaning. - Thomas Nail
"Each art practice invents its own kinds of relational events of lived abstraction, to produce a signature species of semblance. The artwork's relational engagement gives it a political valence just as necessary and immediate as the aesthetic dimension." Brian Massumi, Semblance and Event