Cite as: Ewa Domańska, ‘Animism as Relational Epistemology and Ontology’, lecture presented at the workshop Intra/ Sections: Post-Anthropocentric Concepts of Multiplicity, ICI Berlin, 25 March 2022, video recording, mp4, 51:53 <>
25 Mar 2022

Animism as Relational Epistemology and Ontology

By Ewa Domańska
Indigenous knowledges have traditionally been treated as a field of research for anthropologists and as ‘mistaken epistemologies’, that is, un-scientific and irrational folklore. Within the framework of the environmental humanities, however, a strong interest in non-anthropocentric approaches and epistemic injustice has emerged, with a focus on animism  as a powerful critique of modern epistemology and an alternative to a Western worldview. The lecture argues that treating indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing as a (potentially) decolonizing and liberating practice could help build a more inclusive and holistic knowledge of the past. Following recent works by anthropologists and archaeologists such as Nurit Bird-Rose, Graham Harvey, and Tim Ingold, ‘New Animism’ will be considered as an alternative (relational) ontology that allows for a radical rethinking of the problem of matter and agency and that goes beyond human exceptionalism.

Ewa Domańska is professor of human sciences at the faculty of history, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań and, since 2002, visiting professor at the Department of Anthropology/Archeology Center/DLCL at Stanford University. Her research focuses on the methodology of history, contemporary theory and history of historiography, comparative theory of the humanities and social sciences, new trends in the humanities, as well as the environmental humanities, ecocide and genocide studies. Domańska’s recent publications include: ‘The Paradigm Shift in the Contemporary Humanities and Social Sciences’, in Philosophy of History: Twenty-First-Century Perspectives, ed. by Jouni-Matti Kuukkanen (2020); ‘Unbinding from Humanity: Nandipha Mntambo’s Europa and the Limits of History and Identity’, Journal of the Philosophy of History, 14 (2020), ‘The Environmental History of Mass Graves’, Journal of Genocide Research, 22,.2 (2020), and ‘Prefigurative Humanities’, History and Theory, 60.4 (2021).


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)

Organized by

Jenny Haase
Kathrin Thiele
Part of the DFG research network ‘Dispositiv der Menge’ in cooperation with ICI Berlin, Universität Siegen, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, and Utrecht University

Video in English

Format: mp4
Length: 00:51:53
First published on:
Rights: © ICI Berlin

Part of the Workshop

Intra/ Sections: Post-Anthropocentric Concepts of Multiplicity

The DFG-Network ‘Dispositiv der Menge’ (= crowd, mass, multitude) is based on the recognition that ‘the crowd’ has been constituted, classified, regulated, or dispersed throughout history in various, heterogenous, conflictual ways, which make it impossible to hold onto any understanding of the crowd as a clearly delimited and substantiated entity or to the forms in which it is represented as such. This workshop extends this approach by taking ‘the crowd’ itself as a multitude or multiplicity. It will address phenomena related to more fluctuating and in/determinate intra/sections of collectivities in order to transform the image of ‘the crowd’ from an in-divi-dual-ized One into a mani-fold multiplicity. Such a multiplicity in the singular plural is characterized by movement and motion, fragmentation and friction, ongoingness and inherent contestation. By focusing on this multiplicity, the workshop seeks to un-work a persistent conceptual anthropocentrism of the ways in which agentiality is conceptualized and imagined, instead searching for more dynamic relations with/in a variety of agencies (human, animal, plant, things, propositions) that can be seen as ‘intra-active’. Yet, while ‘the crowd’ will be approached from a critique of anthropomorphism, the turn towards ecological or relational co-existence cannot be a turn away from the violent asymmetrical relations of power and the continued flexibilization and hierarchical re- ordering of global social structures.

The workshop sounds out conceptual and phenomenal resonances between what in Western academic discourses has of late become known as ‘New Materialism’ (in its different strands) and the long tradition of (but also always newly emerging) indigenous and decolonial epistemologies. The idea is to look for ways to concretize the potential for intra/sections in-between posthuman(ist) and indigenous/decolonial thought-practices, hoping for a dialogue between more Western-oriented approaches — e.g., actor-network theory (Bruno Latour), the figures of the cyborg and companion species (Donna Haraway), vital materialism (Jane Bennett), un/limited ecologies (Vicky Kirby), or agential realism (Karen Barad) — and alternative indigenous cosmologies and ethical praxes such as ‘buen vivir/sumac kawsay’ (Alberto Acosta/Eduardo Gudynas), Amerindian perspectivalism (Eduardo Viveiros de Castro) or shape-shifting border/lands (Anzaldúa).

The workshop invites its participants to diffract heterogeneous ways of thinking and enacting multiplicity. Collecting insights from literary and cultural studies, natural sciences, sociology, non-western cosmologies, or religion, it hopes to produce a vision of how a post- anthropocentric perspective can enrich an understanding of ‘world’ as a plurivocal worlding process.


ICI Berlin
(Click for further documentation)


Vera Bachmann
Martina Bengert
Xenia Chiaramonte
Iracema Dulley
Carmen González
Nadine Hartmann
Johanna-Charlotte Horst
Özgün Eylül Işcen
Sarath Jakka
Birgit Kaiser
Michael Karrer
Elizabeth Landers
Taynna Marino
Hanna Meißner
Mariana Simoni
Hannah Steurer
Veronika von Wachter
Max Walther
Jobst Welge
Cornelia Wild

Organized by

Universität Siegen, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, and Utrecht University Organized by Jenny Haase and Kathrin Thiele as part of the DFG research network ‘Dispositiv der Menge’ in cooperation with ICI Berlin