Spring 2019 - Wednesday 4:30 PM-7:20 PM - bldg. 40-42A
Stanford University, ANTHRO 154C, ANTHRO 254C, ARCHLGY 154, ARCHLGY 254, DLCL 254, REES 254 [3-5 units]

Ewa Domanska


Indigenous knowledges have been traditionally treated as a field of research for anthropologists and as “mistaken epistemologies,” i.e., un-scientific and irrational folklore. However, within the framework of environmental humanities, current interest in non-anthropocentric approaches and epistemic injustice, animism emerged as a critique of modern epistemology and an alternative to the Western worldview. Treating native thought as an equivalent to Western knowledge will be presented as a (potentially) decolonizing and liberating practice. Following recent works by anthropologists and archaeologists such as Nurit Bird-Rose, Philippe Descola, Graham Harvey, Tim Ingold and Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, new animism will be treated as an alternative (relational) ontology that allows rethinking the problem of matter and agency and goes beyond human exceptionalism. Bruno Latour’s approach to the figure of Gaia will be considered as an alternative way to look at nature and environment and as the groundwork for a future collaboration among scientists, theologians, activists, and artists. Discussions about alternative approaches to the environment will provide a conceptual platform for a merger of humanities and social sciences with earth and life sciences and indigenous knowledges.

This course may be of interest to anthropology, archaeology and literature students working in the fields of ecocriticism and the environmental humanities/social sciences broadly considered and interested in the Anthropocene, geologic/mineral, bio-, eco- and geosocial collectives, symbiotic life-forms and non-human agencies. Readings will include (among others): Jane Bennett, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Nurit Bird-David, Philippe Descola, Donna Haraway, Tim Ingold, Lynn Margulis, Eduardo Kohn, Bruno Latour. The course is designed as a research seminar for students interested in theory of the humanities and social sciences and simultaneously helping students to develop their individual projects and thesis. It will introduce various approaches to animism and ecological/environmental humanities and stress an awareness of how to draw on and combine these approaches for analyzing students’ own research materials. It advocates a bottom-up approach to theory building thus it also teaches students how to formulate their own interpretative categories and small range theories based on case study analysis. This course will also encourage students to use creative and unconventional methods of research (imagination, creative writing, walking, performances, etc.), when working on papers for other classes and individual projects.



Attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than one meeting (except for illness or others serious matters) will not be graded. Students are expected to read assigned readings carefully and participate in discussions. Grading: participation - 40%; research assignments - 20%;  final work: 40%. Final work expectations: on the base of required readings and research assignments, students are asked to create a booklet or fb website that includes concepts, definitions, citations from readings, as well as made/created by them for the course photos, notes, drawings, aphorisms, poems, recordings, video, etc. that would show students’ view on alternative approaches to the environment..



April 3
1. Introduction: “Imagination is more important than knowledge” (Albert Einstein)
Michael Shanks,The Archaeological Imagination. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Left Coast Press, 2012 (Introduction and chapt. 4: “The Archaeological Imagination”: 9-42 and 145-149).

Research Assignment: Read a chosen chapter from the book, cite a sentence that looks like an aphorism to you and reflect in 300 words on the relation between imagination and knowledge.


 April 10
2. The Gaia Theory

James Lovelock, Gaia, a new look at life on earth. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, reissued, with a new preface and corrections, 2000 (especially: “Preface”, chapt. 1: “Introductory”, chapt. 7 “Gaia and Man: the problem of pollution”, chapt. 8: “Living with Gaia” and 9: “Epilogue”: vii-xix, 1-11, 100-142).

Bruno Latour and Timothy M. Lenton, “Extending the Domain of Freedom, or Why Gaia Is So Hard to Understand.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 45, no. 3, Spring 2019: 659-680.

Luciano Onori, “Guido Visconti, The GAIA theory: from Lovelock to Margulis. From a homeostatic to a cognitive autopoietic worldview.” Rendiconti Lincei. Scienze Fisiche e Naturali, vol. 23, 2012: 375–386.

  • Lynn Margulis, Dorion Sagan, Slanted Truths. Essays on Gaia, Symbiosis and Evolution. New York: Copernicus, 1997 (part III: Gaia: 127-260).
  • Dorian Sagan, “Life on a Margulisian Planet. A Son’s Philosophical Reflection” and Bruce Clarke, “The Planetary Imagination. Gaian Ecologies from Dune to Neuromancer”, in: Earth, Life, and System: Evolution and Ecology on a Gaian Planet, edited by Bruce Clarke. New York: Fordham University Press, 2015: 13-38 and 151-174.
  • Bruno Latour, “Gaia, a (finally secular) figure of nature,” in his, Facing Gaia. Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime, trans. Cathy Porter. Polity Press 2017: 75-110.
  • Lynn Margulis, Symbiotic Planet: A New Look at Evolution. New York: Basic, 1998
  • Bradford D. Martin & Ernest Schwab, “Current Usage of Symbiosis and Associated Terminology.” International Journal of Biology, vol. 5, no. 1, 2013: 32-45.

Research Assignment: On the base of required readings as well as your own knowledge and using free online word cloud generator, create the Gaia theory word cloud. Using different font’s sizes and shapes try to show hierarchy and relations between various terms.


April 17
3. Animism as a Relational Epistemology and Ontology

Nurit Bird-David, "'Animism' Revisited: Personhood, Environment, and Relational Epistemology." Current Anthropology, vol. 40, February 1999: 567-591.

Graham Harvey, Animism. Respecting the Living World. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006 ("Preface": xi-xxi).

Tim Ingold, "Rethinking the Animate, Re-Animating Thought." Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology, vol. 71, no. 1, March 2006: 9-20.

Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, "Perspectival Anthropology and the Method of Controlled Equivocation." Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America, vol. 2, no. 1, 2004: 3-22.

Harry Garuba, "On Animism, Modernity/Colonialism, and the African Order of Knowledge: Provisional Reflections." e-flux, #36, July 2012.

  • Bruno Latour, “How not to (de-)animate nature,” in his, Facing Gaia. Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime, trans. Cathy Porter. Polity Press 2017: 41-74.
  • Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Cosmological Deixis and Amerindian Perspectivism. “The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute,” vol. 4, no. 3, September 1998: 469-488.
  • The Handbook of Contemporary Animism, ed. by Graham Harvey. Acumen Publishing, 2013: 1-112.
  • Istvan Praet, Animism and the Question of Life. Routledge, 2013: 1-60.
  • Philippe Descola, Beyond Nature and Culture, trans. by Janet Lloyd. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
  • Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World. Savage, MD: Littlefield Adams, 1951 (Part II. Animism: 169-251).

Research Assignment: using PhotoLab Picture Editor (for Android) create your face photo montage, half human/half animal or human/plant and write 500 words explaining your choice of animal/plant. How your perception of your subjectivity changes while involving animal/plant features.


April 24
4. The Ontological Turn, Animism and Non-Human Agents

Benjamin Alberti, “Archaeologies of Ontology.” Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 45, 2016: 163–79.

Paolo Heywood, “The Ontological Turn,” in: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, ed. by Felix Stein et al., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017

Martin Holbraad, Morten Axel Pedersen, "Introduction," in: The Ontological Turn: An Anthropological Exposition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017: 1-29.

Lucas Bessire and David Bond, “Ontological Anthropology and the Deferral of Critique.” American Ethnologist, vol. 41, no. 3, 2014: 440–56.

John Robb, “Beyond agency.” World Archaeology, vol. 42, no. 4, 2010: 493-520.

Katja Sterflinger, “Fungi: Their role in deterioration of cultural heritage.” Fungal Biology Reviews, vol. 24, no. 1–2, February–May 2010: 47-55.

  • Jane Bennett, “The Force of Things. Steps Toward an Ecology of Matter.” Political Theory , vol. 32, no. 3, January 2004: 347-372.
  • Alf Hornborg, “Artifacts have consequences, not agency: Toward a critical theory of global environmental history.” European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 20, no. 1, 2017: 95–110.
  • Ian Hodder, “Human-Thing Entanglement: Towards an Integrated Archaeological Perspective.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 17, 2010: 154-177.
  • Ewa Domanska, “Is This Stone Alive? Prefiguring the Future Role of Archaeology.” Norwegian Archaeological Review, vol. 51, no. 1-2, 2018: 22-35..
  • The Archaeology of Ancestors. Death, Memory, and Veneration, edited by Erica Hill and Jon B. Hageman. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2016.
  • Eleanor Harrison-Buck, Julia A. Hendon, “An Introduction to Relational Personhood and Other-than-Human Agency in Archaeology,” in their, Relational Identities and Other-Than-Human Agency in Archaeology. University of Colorado Press, 2018: 3-28.
  • Linda A. Brown and William H. Walker, “Prologue: Archaeology, Animism and Non-Human Agents.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, vol. 15, no. 4, December 2008 (theme issue: Archaeology, Animism, and Non-Human Agents): 297-299.
  • Benjamin Alberti & Yvonne Marshall, “Animating Archaeology: Local Theories and Conceptually Open-Ended Methodologies.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal, vol. 19, no. 3, October 2009: 344-356.
  • Benjamin Alberti and Severin Fowles, “Ecologies of Rock and Art in Northern New Mexico, in Multispecies archaeology, edited by Suzanne E. Pilaar Birch. Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY: Routledge, 2018: 133-153.
  • Humans and the Environment. New Archaeological Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Matthew I. J. Davies and Freda Nkirote M'Mbogori. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Homework: Create a research poster that focusses on the problem of ontology and non-human agents. Identify/create 3 concepts essential for your current research (and related to the course topics). Define each of them in approximately 100 words and include in the poster.


May 1
5. Multispecies Theories and Symbiotic Approaches

Thom van Dooren, Eben Kirksey, Ursula Münster, “Multispecies Studies: Cultivating Arts of Attentiveness.” Environmental Humanities, vol. 8, no. 1, 1 May 2016: 1-23.

Hannah E. Parathian, Matthew R. McLennan, Catherine M. Hill, Amélia Frazão-Moreira, Kimberley J. Hockings, “Breaking Through Disciplinary Barriers: Human–Wildlife Interactions and Multispecies Ethnography.” International Journal of Primatology, vol. 39, no. 5, October 2018: 749-775.

S. Eben Kirksey, Stefan Helmriech, "On the Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography." Current Anthropology, vol. 25, no. 4, November 2010: 545-576 [special issue on “On the Emergence of Multispecies Ethnography”]

Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology beyond the Human. University of California Press, 2013 (Introduction, chapt. 1, 1-68; 83-97; chapt. 4: 131-150; chapt. 6 and Epilogue: 191-228). [video: Eduardo Kohn on “sylvan” thinking and talking to forests. Harvard Divinity School, January 2018]

Participatory Research in More-than-Human Worlds, edited by Michelle Bastian, Owain Jones, Niamh Moore, Emma Roe. London: Routledge, 2017.

Research Assignment: Using poem generator software, create a short poem that includes the word symbiosis or symbiotic.


May 7 (Tuesday)
6. Rethinking Nature
Special guest: Levi R. Bryant

Levi R. Bryant, “Black,” in Prismatic Ecology: Ecotheory beyond Green, edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press, 2013: 290-310.

Levi R. Bryant, “The Four Theses of Flat Ontology,” in his, The Democracy of Objects. Open Humanities Press 2011: 245-290

Matt Edgeworth, “Grounded objects. Archaeology and speculative realism.” Archaeological Dialogues vol. 23, no. 1, 2016: 93–113.

  • Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past, edited by Bjørnar Olsen, Þóra Pétursdóttir. University of California Press, 2012.

Research Assignment: Make a group interview with Levi Bryant.


May 15
7. Soil-Human Relations / Becoming Humus

Katsuyuki Minami, “Soil and Humanity: Culture, Civilization, Livelihood and Health.” Soil Science and Plant Nutrition, vol. 55, 2009: 603-615.

Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, "Making Time for Soil: Technoscientific Futurity and the Pace of Care." Social Studies of Science, vol. 45, no. 5, 2015: 691-716.

Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press, 2016: 32, 55, 101-102.

Rosi Braidotti, “Becoming-Earth” in her, The Posthuman. Polity Press, 2013: 81-89.

  • Alfred E. Hartemink i Alex McBratney, “A soil science renaissance.” Geoderma, vol. 148, 2008:123-129.
  • M. G. Canti, “Earthworm Activity and Archaeological Stratigraphy: A Review of Products and Processes.” Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 30, 2003: 135–148.

Research Assignment: Create a short video recording that presents soil as a living organism and activities of various non-human agents.


May 22
8. Sonic Landscapes / The Agency of Sound

Bernie Krause, “Anatomy of the Soundscape: Evolving Perspectives.” Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, vol. 56, no. 1-2, January-February 2008: 73-80.

Bryan C. Pijanowski, et al., “Soundscape Ecology: The Science of Sound in the Landscape.” BioScience, vol. 61, no. 3, March 2011: 203-216.

Kendall Wrightson, “An Introduction to Acoustic Ecology.” Soundscape, The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, vol. 1, no. 1, 2000: 10-13.

Brandon LaBelle, "Introduction," in, his, Sonic Agency. Sound and Emergent Forms of Resistance. MIT 2018.

Makis Solomos. “From Sound to Sound Space, Sound Environment, Soundscape, Sound Milieu or Ambiance.” Paragraph, vol. 41, no. 1, 2018: 95-109.

  • Tim Ingold, “Against Soundscape,” in Autumn leaves: sound and the environment in artistic practice, edited by Carlyle Angus. Paris: Double Entendre, 2007: 10-13.
  • David W. Samuels, Louise Meintjes, et al., “Soundscapes: Toward a Sounded Anthropology.” Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 39, 2010: 329-345.
  • Hans-Joachim Braun, “An Acoustic Turn? Recent Developments and Future Perspectives of Sound Studies.” AVANT, vol. VIII, no. 1, 2017: 75-91.
  • Lynn Meskell, „On Hearing, Phenomenology and Desire,” in her, Object worlds in ancient Egypt: material biographies past and present. Oxford, New York: Berg, 2004: 130-137.
  • Rupert Till, “Sound archaeology: terminology, Palaeolithic cave art and the soundscape.” World Archaeology, vol. 46, no. 3, 2014: 292-304.
  • Christopher l. Witmore, “Four archaeological engagements with place. Mediating bodily experience through peripatetic video.” Visual Anthropology Review, vol. 20, no. 2, September 2004: 57-72.
  • Bernie Krause, Biophony and the Deep History of Sound. The Appendix, vol. 1, no. 3, July 2013.
  • Miriam Kolar, Tuned to the Senses: An Archaeoacoustic Perspective on Ancient Chavín. The Appendix, vol. 1, no. 3, July 2013.

Research Assignment: Create an audio record of a chosen soundscape. Reflect on your recording (500 words)


May 30 (Thursday)
9.The Planetary Turn
(special guest: Dipesh Chakrabarty)

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Planetary Crises and the Difficulty of Being Modern.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies, vol. 46, no. 3, 2018: 259–282.

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Humanities in the Anthropocene: The Crisis of an Enduring Kantian Fable.” New Literary History, vol. 47, no. 2 & 3, Spring & Summer 2016: 377-397.

  • Christian Moraru, Reading for the Planet. Toward a Geomethodology. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2015.
  • Amy J. Elias and Christian Moraru, “The Planetary Condition,” and Christian Moraru, “Decompressing Culture. Three Steps toward a Geomethodology,” in The Planetary Turn: Relationality and Geoaesthetics in the Twenty-First Century, eds. Amy J. Elias and Christian Moraru. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 2015: xi-xxxvii and 211-244.
  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Death of a Discipline. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003 (chapter 3: Planetarity).
  • Part II. “Planetarity and the Postcolonial,” in The Postcolonial and the Global, ed. Revathi Krishnaswamy and John C. Hawley. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
  • Geoff Mann and Joel Wainwright, Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future. London: Verso Books. 2018.
  • Catherine Keller, Political Theology of the Earth. Our Planetary Emergency and the Struggle for a New Public. New York: Columbia University Press, 2018.
  • Carl Schmitt, Dialogues on Power and Space, trans. Samuel Garrett Zeitlin.Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA : Polity Press, 2015.

Research Assignment: analyze and reflect on a chosen (one) paragraph from one of the assigned articles (500 words).


June 5
10. Conclusions: Ethics, Respons-Ability and Reciprocity

Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic,” in his, A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches here and there. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, [1949] 1989: 201-226.

John Charles Ryan, “Toward An Ethics of Reciprocity: Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Medicinal Plants as Cancer Therapies.” Humanities, vol. 3, 2014: 624–644.

Michael A. Peters, Ruyu Hung, “Solar Ethics: a new paradigm for environmental ethics and education?” Policy Futures in Education, vol. 7, no. 3, 2009: 321-329.

  • Paul B. Thompson, “The Ethics of Soil. Stewardship, Motivation, and Moral Framing,” in Thomas J. Sauer, John Norman, Mannava V. K. Sivakumar (eds.), Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Ethics. Chichester, West Sussex, UK; Mes, Iowa: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011: 31-42.