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.

Listen Now

This episode has not been transcribed yet. 

Consider a donation to pay for the cost of editing a transcript?

About this episode

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.

 Fund the RSP while you shop! Use an Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, or Amazon.com affiliate link whenever you make a purchase. There’s no additional cost to you, but every bit helps us stay on the air! 

We need your support!

Want to support us directly? Become a monthly Patron or consider giving us a one-time donation through PayPal

Related Resources

Doing Anthropological Fieldwork

Podcast

“If we want to discover what [wo]man amounts to, we can only find it in what [wo]men are: and what [wo]men are, above all other things, is various. It is in understanding that variousness – its range, its nature, its basis, and its implications – that we shall come to construct a concept of human nature that, more than a statistical shadow, and less than a primitivists dream, ...
Bruno Latour, Talking “Religiously”, part 2

Podcast

This is the second part of our interview with Professor Bruno Latour. This time, Latour and David Robertson discuss Latour’s recent works We Have Never Been Modern and On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods. Discussion moves from his critique of the distinction between the manufactured and “real”, and how this affects our models of belief.

Responses to this episode

An Evaluation of Harvey’s Approach to Animism and the Tylorian Legacy

The interview with Graham Harvey on Animism was of particular interest to me because my Masters thesis concerns the theoretical relevance of the work of E.B Tylor, credited with introducing the concept of Animism to scholarship. Harvey related Animism back to the work of Tylor but when offered a definition of Animism by the interviewer (David Robertson), as “the attribution of a soul of some kind to non-human beings”...

Other EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY

Nature alive: Amazonian religion in Peru

Podcast

In this podcast, Dr Jaime Regan Mainville, a leading researcher in the anthropology of religion and linguistics, discusses his ethnographic research among some of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin. The Amazon rainforest has always been a land filled with mystery since its 'discovery'.
Beyond ‘Faith-Based Organizations’: Religion and NGOs in comparative perspective

Podcast

In this interview, we talk with Erica Bornstein about her studies of religious giving and social activism in India and Africa, and what the results of her research contribute to our understanding of the complex configurations of ‘Faith-Based Organizations’ across diverse religious contexts.Since the turn of the twenty-first century, ...
The Legacy of Edward Tylor – Roundtable

Podcast

This roundtable recorded at the annual BASR conference at the University of Chester 2017 brought together a group of scholars interested in different perspectives on the legacy of Tylor. Topics discussed included his impact on indigenous societies, the debates over animism,
Roots as Scripture and Scripture as Roots

Podcast

Since its release in 1976, Alex Haley's "Roots" has been a source of inspiration for generations of Americans. For Assistant Professor Richard Newton, Haley's novel reveals the way that scriptures play critical roles in rooting, uprooting, and routing our lives. Listen now to this fascinating discussion with Dr. Newton about his new book "Identifying Roots: Alex Haley and the Anthropology of Scriptures" with RSP Co-Host Breann Fallon.