(S)animism and Other Animisms

  • Mathias Guenther


San animistic cosmology, in terms of the New Animism paradigm of relational ontology, is considered cross-culturally by comparing “(S)animism” to other animisms, of other preindustrial peoples, the San’s Bantu-speaking neighbors the one and the Eastern Arctic Inuit the other. The two sets of people and cultures focused on in this comparative exercise are linked to the San in significant ways, one in terms of geographic contiguity and the other in terms of cultural similarity. The first, neighboring Bantu-speakers with whom some San groups have had close and long-standing contact and whose culture contains mytho-magical notions and practices about animal hybridity and transformation, points to inter-acculturative influences. The second is another hunter-gatherer people who, while located in another, far-away region and climate zone of the world, have in common with the San—and hunter-gatherers—a number of cultural-ecological aspects of cosmology and ontology, enough of them as to make such a comparison meaningful. A third non-San cosmology to be considered in this comparative analysis is the Western one which, notwithstanding its dichotomist, anthrocentric Cartesian and Christian intellectual heritage, contains animistic—relational-ontological—elements, especially its recent “ontological turn” toward a “post”- or “trans”-humanist perspective. The perspective has yielded thoughts and insights that resonate with and amplify San cosmology and ontology, and that of other preindustrial hunting people, whose own insights, in turn, would amplify those found in Western culture.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Mathias Guenther
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyWilfrid Laurier UniversityOntarioCanada

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