February 13, 2012

Graham Harvey on Animism

Graham Harvey photo

Animism is often taken as referring to worldviews in which spirits are to be found not only in humans, but potentially in animals, in plants, in mountains and even natural forces like the wind. It was of central importance in early anthropological conceptions of religion, most notably in the work of E. B. Tylor. More recently, however, Graham Harvey has challenged the traditional conception of animism, seeking to understand it as “relational epistemologies and ontologies”; in other words, it is a way of living in a community of persons, most of whom are other-than-human.

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Dr Graham Harvey has been Reader in Religious Studies at the Open University since 1993, and is also the President Elect of our sponsors, the British Association for the Study of Religions. Other than Animism, his work has covered a wide range of subjects, from Judaism, Paganism, Indigenous Religions and Shamanism.

His most important publication on animism is his 2005 book Animism: Respecting the Living World. It is supported by www.animism.org.uk, which features essays, articles and interviews which expand on the material in this podcast.

His paper, ‘Animals, Animists and Academics’, from Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 41.1 (2006), is available to download here, if you have University access.

If not, (or, indeed, as well,) “Animism rather than Shamanism”, from Spirit Possession and Trance : New Interdisciplinary Perspectives (edited by Bettina Schmidt and Lucy Huskinson, Continuum 2010) is available here.

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