If Not all Stones Are Alive…: Radical Relationality in Animism Studies

Harvey, Graham (2017). If Not all Stones Are Alive…: Radical Relationality in Animism Studies. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 11(4) pp. 481–497.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.31066


Irving Hallowell’s conversation with an Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) elder in the early twentieth century has gained increasing attention in recent decades. It has been cited by many involved in the multi-disciplinary ‘turns’ to ontology, materiality and relationality. In particular, it has inspired many researchers involved in the ‘new (approach to) animism’. This article considers efforts to rethink what ‘person’ or ‘relation’ might mean in the light of Indigenous ontologies and of the ferment of reflection and analysis offered by many colleagues. It proposes that we have not yet sufficiently understood what the elder intended by telling Hallowell that only some stones are animate. A more radically relational understanding of personhood has implications for the ways in which we approach and engage with/in nature, culture, science, and religion.

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