Franz Boas’s 1897 monograph The Social Organization and the Secret Societies of the Kwakiutl Indians was a landmark in anthropology for its integrative approach to ethnography, the use of multiple media, and the collaborative role of Boas’s Indigenous partner, George Hunt. Not only did the volume draw on existing museum collections from around the world, but the two men also left behind a vast and now widely distributed archive of unpublished materials relevant to the creation and afterlife of this seminal text. This article discusses an international and intercultural project to create a new, annotated critical edition of the book that reassembles the dispersed materials and reembeds them within Kwakwaka’wakw ontologies of both persons and things. The project mobilizes digital media to link together disparate collections, scholars, and Indigenous communities in order to recuperate long-dormant ethnographic records for use in current and future cultural revitalization.
Collaboration and Digital Media in (Re)making Boas’s 1897 Book
Aaron Glass, Judith Berman and Rainer Hatoum
Indigeneity, Ontology, and Hybridity in Settler Colonialism
Paul Berne Burow, Samara Brock and Michael R. Dove
This article examines different ontologies of land in settler colonialism and Indigenous movements for decolonization and environmental justice. Settler ontologies of land operate by occluding other modes of perceiving, representing, and experiencing land. Indigenous ontologies of land are commonly oriented around relationality and reciprocal obligations among humans and the other-than-human. Drawing together scholarship from literatures in political economy, political ecology, Indigenous studies, and post-humanism, we synthesize an approach to thinking with land to understand structures of dispossession and the possibilities for Indigenous revitalization through ontological hybridity. Using two different case studies—plantation development in Indonesia and land revitalization in the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Nation—we further develop how settler and Indigenous ontologies operate on the ground, illuminating the coexistence of multiple ontologies of land. Given the centrality of land in settler colonialism, hybrid ontologies are important to Indigenous movements seeking to simultaneously strengthen sovereignty over territory and revitalize land-based practices.
The essay provides a review of a small but remarkable book on the work of two important Native American and Siberian poets, Meditations after the Bear Feast by Navarre Scott Momaday and Yuri Vella, published in 2016 by Shanti Arts in Brunswick, Maine. Their poetic dialogue revolves around the well-known role of the bear as a sociocultural keystone species in the boreal forest zone of Eurasia and North America. The essay analyzes the understanding of dialogicity as shaping the intersubjectivity of the poets emerging from human relationships with the environment. It tries to unpack the complex and prophetic bear dream in one of Vella’s poems in which he links indigenous ontologies with urgent sociopolitical problems.
To take the concept of the Anthropocene seriously requires engagement with global history. But what ‘global’ shall this be? In honour of the work of Marilyn Strathern, this essay explores that planetary Anthropocene composed of fragments that do not fit together at all, and yet necessarily do. At the centre of my concerns are the awkward relations between what one might call ‘machines of replication’ – those simplified ecologies, such as plantations, in which life worlds are remade as future assets – and the vernacular histories in which such machines erupt in all their particularity and go feral in counter-intentional forms. Such eruptions are manifestations of post-Enlightenment modern Man, the one who got us into the mess we call the Anthropocene. Yet, in contrast to approaches that begin with the unified continuity of Man (versus indigenous ontologies; as scientific protocol and so on), this article explores contingent eruptions and the patchy, fractured Anthropocene they foster.
The Importance of Native American Philosophies of Naming for Environmental Justice
Controlling the names of places, environments, and species is one way in which settler colonial ontologies delimit the intelligibility of ecological relations, Indigenous peoples, and environmental injustices. To counter this, this article amplifies the voices of Native American scholars and foregrounds a philosophical account of Indigenous naming. First, I explore some central characteristics of Indigenous ontology, epistemic virtue, and ethical responsibility, setting the stage for how Native naming draws these elements together into a complete, robust philosophy. Then I point toward leading but contingent principles of Native naming, foregrounding how Native names emerge from and create communities by situating (rather than individuating) the beings that they name within kinship structures, including human and nonhuman agents. Finally, I outline why and how Indigenous names and the knowledges they contain are crucial for both resisting settler violence and achieving environmental justice, not only for Native Americans, but for their entire animate communities.