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 I|52 pages


part II|102 pages

Case Studies – Mainland and the Philippines

chapter 3|18 pages

Seeing and Knowing

Metamorphosis and the Fragility of Species in Chewong Animistic Ontology

chapter 4|18 pages

Graded Personhood

Human and Non-Human Actors in the Southeast Asian Uplands

chapter 5|23 pages

Animism and the Hunter's Dilemma

Hunting, Sacrifice and Asymmetric Exchange Among the Katu of Vietnam

chapter 6|24 pages

Wrestling with Spirits, Escaping the State

Animist Ecology and Settlement Policy in the Central Annamite Cordillera

chapter 7|17 pages

Actualizing Spirits

Ifugao Animism as Onto-Praxis

part III|122 pages

Case Studies – Insular Southeast Asia

chapter 9|24 pages

The Dynamics of the Cosmic Conversation

Beliefs about Spirits Among the Kelabit and Penan of the Upper Baram River, Sarawak

chapter 10|14 pages

Animism and Anxiety

Religious Conversion Among the Kelabit of Sarawak

chapter 11|17 pages

Boundaries of Humanity

Non-Human Others and Animist Ontology in Eastern Indonesia

chapter 13|20 pages

Impaling Spirit

Three Categories of Ontological Domain in Eastern Indonesia

part IV|34 pages


chapter 14|23 pages

Southeast Asian Animism

A Dialogue with Amerindian Perspectivism

chapter 15|9 pages

End Comment

To Conclude in the Spirit of Rebirth, or, a note on Animic Anthropo-Ontogenesis