Posthumanism or Animism? The Anthropocene Problem and African Heritage Ontologies


African Humanities Program Postdoctoral Fellowships


Archaeology and Tourism


The human-nature relationships across African communities are a heritage ontology that preserves landforms, water bodies, and environmental species as well as cultural practices. At contact with the imperial Europe, this ontology was dismissed as ‘animism’ or ‘totemism’. In this study, I use ethnographic methods of data collection – observation and interview – to explore the connectivity between posthumanism and animism in the context of heritage discourse, focusing on human and nonhuman relational ontologies that exist among the Igbo of southeast Nigeria. I interrogate the Igbo knowledge systems in the face of the challenges of survival of human and nonhuman life forms. I examine how the posthuman (or animistic?) ontologies help to preserve African environment, its contents, and cultural practices thereto. I argue that ‘posthumanism’ is ‘animism’ retheorized. I utilize the knowledge derived to contemplate an inclusive and sustainable conservation model that preserves ecological species and the associated cultural practices against the threatening effects of urbanization, industrialization, and technological innovation in the Anthropocene age.