Published in  
September 10, 2023

It's an Animist's Animist's World

Is it possible that we are trapped within an anthropocentrism that can no longer shoulder the explanatory burden of an animist world increasingly out of reach?

It's extremely difficult to overestimate how desperately needed an animist cosmovision is right now. The liberal world order, anchored in humanist presuppositions, spins and turns on the majesty and exclusivity of the human individual.

This individual is fully realized: he has intentions; he has rationality; he has language; he has agency; and, he can solve problems. Nothing escapes him. The world begins and ends at the boundaries of his will. The entire enterprise of progress and the prospects for peace are premised on this rational individual exercising his divine rights to forge a world for himself. A world deserving of his appearing.

But the crises streaming through the post-Hiroshima world of ticking clocks, purring machines, and universal declarations are transversal guests. They do not bow at the imperial figure of the Man. These troubles are entrained with this world, but cannot be fully reduced to it. They are this-worldly and otherworldly all at once. They are prophetic in that they render visible the outlines by which our lives are contained and textured.

In the blast of their rapturous crossing, we are compelled to consider a 'bigger' force than the Man. We are forced to notice the vigorous potency of archetypal flows; the near-primordial humming of cavernous entities lurking beneath the humdrum of the modern; the mythopoeic excursions of the orishas; the molecular experiments of the subatomic; the espionage of bacteria; the lamentations of ancestral ghosts.

In the wake of their passing, rumours are that the world does not in fact turn on what we do, what humans do. That we are not alone and never were. That being kind and compassionate, eloquent and smart, this and that, are not enough. That achieving a sense of "inner" balance, organizational success, or moral purity might actually prove ironically stultifying to the strange business of becoming-otherwise. In short, the liberal futures predicated on humans getting their act together are defunct, forever postponed, useful perhaps only as framed portraits dotting the hallways dedicated to the myth of our sovereignty.

This is why it is impossible to think about the challenges we face today squarely in terms of human actions and human projects. A posthumanist, animist inflection reminds us that problems are how moral-aesthetic-epistemo-ontological arrangements (otherwise, 'natures') become creative, and solutions are how those very arrangements often fortify themselves.

We'd need more than getting our acts together to address the crippling challenges of our time. Indeed, we might need to come apart.

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