If Not all Stones Are Alive…

Radical Relationality in Animism Studies


  • Graham Harvey The Open University




animism, personhood, relations, ontology


Irving Hallowell’s conversation with an Anishinaabe (Ojibwa) elder in the early twentieth century has gained increasing attention in recent decades. It has been cited by many involved in the multi-disciplinary “turns” to ontology, materiality and relationality. In particular, it has inspired many researchers involved in the “new (approach to) animism”. This article considers efforts to rethink what “person” or “relation” might mean – in the light of Indigenous ontologies and of the ferment of reflection and analysis offered by many colleagues. It proposes that we have not yet sufficiently understood what the elder intended by telling Hallowell that only some stones are animate. A more radically relational understanding of personhood has implications for the ways in which we approach and engage with/in nature, culture, science and religion.


Author Biography

Graham Harvey, The Open University

Graham Harvey is Professor of Religious Studies at the Open University, UK. His research is concerned with the performance and rhetoric of identities among Jews, Pagans and indigenous peoples. He is particularly interested in the ³new animism², embracing relational and material approaches to interactions between humans and the larger than human world. His recent publications include The Handbook of Contemporary Animism (2013) and Food, Sex and Strangers: Understanding Religion as Everyday Life (2013).


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How to Cite

Harvey, G. (2018). If Not all Stones Are Alive…: Radical Relationality in Animism Studies. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 11(4), 481–497. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.31066



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