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Disparate ontologies? Revisiting Descola's ontological schema among Northern societies

New publication by Walsh M, O'neill S, Geertz AW, Sørensen JF, Riede F, Willerslev R.


Disparate Ontologies? Takes a critical look at Philippe Descola’s four-field anthropological model for ontologies among hunter-gatherer societies. Descola’s model juxtaposes animism, totemism, analogism, and naturalism as reflecting different expressions of interiority and physicality and queries those four ontological concepts as comparative units of analysis. While Descola’s Beyond Nature and Culture (2013) was a ground-breaking exploration of ontological ethnology and anthropological theory, the present work questions whether animism and totemism should be considered as comparable units in cross-cultural anthropological studies. Disparate Ontologies? focuses on the interpretive suitability of the concepts of animism and totemism as comparable variables in comparative analysis by investigating a sample of traditional indigenous societies from the northernmost Northern Hemisphere. The work focuses on ethnographic examples of animism and totemism, as well as cyclical rebirth eschatology and forms of perspectivism in an attempt to provide insights into the similarities and differences of ontological reckonings among diverse peoples across the North.