Personhood and relationality have re-animated debate in and between many disciplines. We are in the midst of a simultaneous "ontological turn", a "(re)turn to things" and a "relational turn", and also debating a "new animism". It is increasingly recognised that the boundaries between the "natural" and "social" sciences are of heuristic value but might not adequately describe reality of a multi-species world. Following rich and provocative dialogues between ethnologists and Indigenous experts, relations between the received knowledge of Western Modernity and that of people who dwell and move within different ontologies have shifted. Reflection on human relations with the larger-than-human world can no longer rely on the outdated assumption that "nature" and "cultures" already accurately describe the lineaments of reality.
The chapters in this volume advance debates about relations between humans and things, between scholars and others, and between Modern and Indigenous ontologies. They consider how terms in diverse communities might hinder or help express, evidence and explore improved ways of knowing and being in the world. Contributors to this volume bring different perspectives and approaches to bear on questions about animism, personhood, materiality, and relationality. They include anthropologists, archaeologists, ethnographers, and scholars of religion.
Foreword by Philip P. Arnold; Introduction: We have never been individuals, Miguel Astor-Aguilera and Graham Harvey PART 1: Relations 1 On the Ontological Scheme of Beyond Nature and Culture, Marshall Sahlins 2 Persons or relatives? Animistic scales of practice and imagination, Nurit Bird-David 3 Adjusted styles of communication (ASCs) in the post-Cartesian world, Graham Harvey PART 2: Things 4 Assembling new ontologies from old materials: Towards multiplicity, Oliver J. T. Harris and Rachel J. Crellin 5 Religious objects: Uncomfortable relations and an ontological turn to things, Amy Whitehead 6 Robot Companions: The Animation of Technology and the Technology of Animation in Japan, Fabio R. Gygi PART 3: Approaches 7 The Ontological Turn, Indigenous Research, and Niitsitapi Protocols of Reciprocity, Kenneth H. Lokensgard 8 Maya-Mesoamerican Polyontologies: Breath and Indigenous American Vital Essences, Miguel Astor-Aguilera 9 Environment, ontology and visual perception: A saltwater case, Katie Glaskin 10 "Are All Stones Alive?": Anthropological and Anishinaabe Approaches to Personhood, Maureen Matthews and Roger Roulette
"From religious objects that mobilize communities, to the analysis of techno-animisms where robots and humans project agency in Japan, passing through the redefinition of Stonehenge and Mayan Polyontologies, Rethinking Relations is a book that will make a significant impact in anthropology, religious studies, and archaeology [...] In essence, Rethinking Relations gives us a refreshing view of traditional anthropological concepts, where notions like personhood, animism, and agency take on a whole new meaning, one that fulfills the ideal of what Latour has called a symmetrical anthropology."
- Sergio Gonzalez Varela, Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, Reading Religion