From my 2008 thesis paper:

An animistic approach to space and substance is defined, according to Graham Harvey, by the extension of personhood to “other-than-human” entities, including animals, plants, rocks, weather systems, places, and “artefacts” (objects made by humans). Harvey quotes Viveiros de Castro: “Personhood and ‘perspectivity’—the capacity to occupy a point of view—is a question of degree and context, rather than an absolute, diacritical property of a particular species.”

I understand the term “personhood” as referring to entities that exhibit social behavior, defined by receptivity and responsiveness. A water supply can certainly be considered as such. This idea—that objects and places have responsive characters—resonates with the use of found materials. Furthermore, if this idea is taken seriously, it follows that one should treat places and things as one would persons: with respect.

For more on Animism, check out Harvey’s great book on the subject.


And a few excerpts from his rambling Animist Manifesto:


The world is full of persons (people if you prefer), but few of them are human

The world is full of other-than-human persons

The world is full of other-than-oak persons

The world is full of other-than-hedgehog persons

The world is full of other-than-salmon persons

The world is full of other-than-kingfisher persons

The world is full of other-than-rock persons…


Respect means being cautious and constructive

It is cautiously approaching others — and our own wishes,

It is constructing relationships, constructing opportunities to talk, to relate, to listen, to spend time in the face-to-face presence and company of others

It is taking care of, caring for, caring about, being careful about…

It can be shown by leaving alone and by giving gifts


Hugging trees that you don’t know may be rude – try introducing yourself first

One thought on “Animism

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