ABSTRACT

Animism refers to ontologies or worldviews which assign agency and personhood to human and non-human beings alike. Recent years have seen a revival of this concept in anthropology, where it is now discussed as an alternative to modern-Western naturalistic notions of human-environment relations.

Based on original fieldwork, this book presents a number of case studies of animism from insular and peninsular Southeast Asia and offers a comprehensive overview of the phenomenon – its diversity and underlying commonalities and its resilience in the face of powerful forces of change. Critically engaging with the current standard notion of animism, based on hunter-gatherer and horticulturalist societies in other regions, it examines the roles of life forces, souls and spirits in local cosmologies and indigenous religion. It proposes an expansion of the concept to societies featuring mixed farming, sacrifice and hierarchy and explores the question of how non-human agents are created through acts of attention and communication, touching upon the relationship between animist ontologies, world religion, and the state.

Shedding new light on Southeast Asian religious ethnographic research, the book is a significant contribution to anthropological theory and the revitalization of the concept of animism in the humanities and social sciences.

Part One: Introductory 1. Southeast Asian Animism in Context 2. Dimensions of Animism in Southeast Asia Part Two: Case Studies – Mainland and The Philippines 3. Seeing and Knowing: Metamorphosis and the Fragility of Species in Chewong Animistic Ideology 4. Graded Personhood: Human and Non-human Actors in the Southeast Asian Uplands 5. Animism and the Hunter’s Dilemma: Hunting, Sacrifice and Asymmetric Exchange Among the Katu of Vietnam 6. Wrestling With Spirits, Escaping the State: Animist Ecology and Settlement Policy in the Annamite Cordillera 7. Actualizing Spirits: Ifugao Animism as Onto-praxis Part Three: Case Studies – Insular Southeast Asia 8. Relatedness and Alterity in Bentian Human-spirit Relations 9. The Dynamics of the Cosmic Conversation: Beliefs bout Spirits among the Kelabit and Penan of the Upper Baram River, Sarawak 10. Animism and Anxiety: Religious Conversion among the Kelabit of Sarawak 11. Boundaries of Humanity: Non-human Others and Animist Ontology in Eastern Indonesia 12. Gods and Spirits in the Wetu Telu Religion of Lombok 13. Impaling Spirit: Three Categories of Ontological Domain in Eastern Indonesia Part Four: Concluding 14. Southeast-Asian Animism: A Dialogue with Amerindian Perspectivism 15. End Comment: To Conclude in the Spirit of Rebirth, or, a Note on Animic Anthropo-ontogenesis