Being Known by a Birch Tree
Animist Refigurings of Western Epistemology
Keywords:animism, epistemology, indigenous, situated knowing, relational ontology
Animism, as derived from Ojibwa philosophy and articulated by anthropologists of religion, begins in a relational worldview and implies ways of knowing that challenge a Cartesian framework. Beginning with a story of my relationship with a weeping birch tree at my childhood home in northwest Ohio, I examine elements of an animist epistemology using Indigenous philosophers such as Carol Lee Sanchez, Vine Deloria, Donald Fixico, and Makere Stewart-Harawira. But to trouble the dichotomy between indigenous and Western ways of knowing, I draw also on Nonindigenous scholars such as Donna Haraway and ‘situated knowledges’; Karen Barad and ‘intra-acting,’ and Val Plumwood and ‘spirituality of place.’ 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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