Animism through indigenous eyes

June 23rd, 2013, 11pm

Do these cacti, seeming to run through the desert, have souls? You may well ask!

Anthropologists have much to account for with reference to hindering proper understanding of indigenous knowledge, indigenous cultures, indigenous religions. Many modern anthropologists acknowledge the harm done in the name of this discipline over the last two centuries; however, it has been difficult for many native peoples to forgive the cultural damage.1

Over the next little while, I plan to re-examine the anthropological construct known as ‘animism,’ a concept often said to incorporate the very essence of indigenous peoples’ knowledge and spirituality.

Wikipedia makes the interesting suggestion that the “animistic perspective is so fundamental, mundane, everyday and taken-for-granted that most animistic indigenous people do not even have a word in their languages that corresponds to ‘animism.’” It seems to me that if the thousands of tribes and tribal languages do not have a word for it, then perhaps the concept, which was after all created by European anthropological theorists, is simply not appropriate with regard to most indigenous knowledges.

More to come.

  1. One might also sing high praises of a number of important and very positive anthropological contributions but that is another story for another time. 

Lia and Yiling said thanks.

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David Wade Chambers

Born in Oklahoma: 30 years in US. 6 years in Canada, 40 years in Australia. Academic field: history and philosophy of science. Currently, teach indigenous studies online at Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM) and Brandon University (Manitoba). Come visit our B&B on Australia's Great Ocean Road. Mate's Rates for Hi community! (

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