Being Known by a Birch Tree: Animist Refigurings of Western Epistemology

Stuckey, Priscilla
September 2010
Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture;Sep2010, Vol. 4 Issue 3, p182
Academic Journal
New animism, as derived from Ojibwe philosophy and articulated by anthropologists of religion, begins in a relational worldview arid implies ways of knowing that challenge Cartesian dualism. Opening with a story of my relationship with a weeping birch tree in Ohio, I use the relational epistemology of animism and of feminist theorist Lorraine Code to examine four ways in which my experience with the birch tree, interpreted within an animist-feminist relational worldview, challenges Cartesian dualism. To elaborate animist ways of knowing, I draw on Indigenous philosophers such as Carol Lee Sanchez (Laguna Pueblo), Vine Deloria (Standing Rock), Donald Fixico (Creek and Seminole), and Makere Stewart-Harawira (Maori). But to illustrate border crossings between Indigenous and Western ways of knowing, I draw also on non-Indigenous scholars such as Tim Ingold and his 'relational constitution of being'; Karen Barad and `intra-acting'; Val Plumwood's 'spirituality of place'; and David Abram's concept of 'the flesh of language'. My goal is to situate humans as but one extension of Earth's ability to know and to explore how we might take our places in a community of knowers, only some of whom are human.


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