Please enjoy this pre-publication version of ‘Every Day Animisms’ by Lisa Meaney

For published version visit:

From: Meaney, L. (2022). Everyday Animisms. In: Fredriksen, B.C., Groth, C. (eds) Expanding Environmental Awareness in Education Through the Arts. Landscapes: the Arts, Aesthetics, and Education, vol 33. Springer, Singapore.

Everyday Animisms
By Lisa Meaney

I roll my tongue around my mouth

to remember

that I am made with,

and always making with,


Lisa Meaney is undertaking a Design PhD in Posthuman Practice at Lancaster University. PhD, updates, writing and evolving research will be published here in due course.
     Our sense of ourselves, in relation to the wider material world of animals, plants, gases, water, is part of our way of being – our ontology. This is expressed in the language we use, the power dynamics we do not question, how we conceive of our own bodies, and how we treat all the other beings and materials of the world.

Creative practice is presented here as a way to explore and remake ontologies, as a vital part of addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis. Water becomes the material companion of this text, which first locates the time we are in, and positions the dominant ontology of the west, amongst other ontologies. Through reflections on a personal experience of trying to ‘make-with’ water, my own way of being - firmly established in the nature/culture camp through a British, Roman Catholic, capitalist upbringing - is challenged, as is the relationship between my practice as an artist/designer/maker and my work as environmentalist. The thinking and philosophies offered by posthumanism, psychology and anthropology lend confidence to the idea that alternative ways of being could emerge through making, and that makers may have a role to play in negotiating the environmental crisis. 

A Nature Narrative

     The dominant ontology in the western world is expressed through the idea that nature and culture are separate. In a western everyday way nature is conceptualised as existing independently of people. The rivers, the rain, the dew on the grass, whether admired or ignored, are ultimately externalised. In this context, whilst nature is understood as being outside of the human body, culture is its everyday opposite, and is focused on all that humans do and think that defines us as exceptional and apart from the natural world.

     In the western world the idea that nature and culture exist as a dichotomy frames the unarticulated, unchallenged truths of our lives, and is in turn “truth making”. This divide propagates the ability to objectify, measure and define nature, even as we recognise our dependency on it. Through the lens of science the environmental crisis is quantitatively measurable in CO2 parts per million, as a tiny but potent change in the number of degrees Celsius, and as percentage of species lost. This way of understanding and speaking about climate and biodiversity dominates the global discourse. It creates the narrative that nature as other - oceans, species, the air - is in crisis, and conceals other ontological truths, or new truths and ways of being, being made.

     Writer Ben Okri, in his meditation on the role of the artist ‘A Way of Being Free’ asks ‘How can we, in the presence of irreducible being, view life from only one perspective…?’ (Okri, 2015, p.16), he describes how it is the role of the artist to agitate, to think against the grain, to continually extend the boundaries of the possible and reveal new perspectives. For Okri, poets ‘remake the world in words’(Okri, 2015, p.3). This chapter explores whether makers, the artisans who work in daily intimate physical dialogue with the stuff of the world, can extend the boundaries of western environmental discourse, and help to remake human relationship with the world through making.

Where we are

     We, anthropos - artists, makers, scientists and mothers, educators and activists, are often described as living in the Anthropocene – a new geological era with altered climate and biological systems, created by human (or anthropos) activity. Emerging like many things from the water, the concept of the Anthropocene was, it seems, first presented in 1980’s by expert in algae, Eugene Stoermer (Haraway, 2016, p.44), and later used in relation to the fossil fuel induced warming and acidification of the oceans. In an every-day sense, the term has become synonymous with a realisation that something enormous and deeply troubling is happening to our planet, and that we are accountable.

     How exactly we arrived in the Anthropocene and its environmental eventualities is a complex and slippery story. One could find origins in the ‘fertile crescent’ of the Middle East, when 10,000 years ago, the abundance of water and fertile soils provided by the Tigris, Euphrates and Nile rivers enabled the first agricultural revolution and a turn away from the reciprocities of hunter gathering (Quin, 1992, p.152). Others hypothesise that Christian theology, by facilitating broad cultural patterns of human mastery over inanimate nature, created the context we now find ourselves in (Jenkins, Berry & Kreider 2018, p.3). The industrial revolution of  17th century England, along with the concept of ‘utility’ that evolved in the 18th century, and became tied to our daily consumption of water, gas and electricity are both alternative starting points. The more recent ascendance of the scientific method is also understood as an Anthropocene force - it has enabled the objectification and translation of nature into material formula, transforming for instance, our understanding of the diverse ‘waters’ of the world into a single expression: H20 (Linton, 2010).

     Some scholars within the social, earth and economic sciences argue that the word Anthropocene with its focus on the shenanigans of anthropos at large, is misleading. All of humanity is not responsible for the crisis we find ourselves in. Environmental historian Jason Moore (2017) argues that we are where we are, because of the economic model of capitalism. He points out that this model has been propagated by particular humans in particular political contexts, and to acknowledge this accountability fairly ‘Capitalocene,’ is a more fitting title for our times (Moore, 2017). Others argue that the powers of particular humans, turned towards the subordination, enclosure, extraction and exploitation, of the more-than-human world (and other humans), should be made explicit as the driving force of this epoch, and offer ‘Plantationocene’ as an alternative (Haraway, 2016 p.100). Indigenous scholar Zoe Todd advocates for a greater focus the on perspectives of those who are least responsible for the crisis of our times “rather than engage with the Anthropocene as a teleological fact implicating all humans as equally culpable …we should turn to examining how other peoples are describing our ‘ecological imagination’”(Todd, 2015 p.252).

Ways of Being

     The western discipline of Anthropology explores the various ontologies existing in the world, and presents broad and comparative reflections on how different human – non-human (or more-than-human) relations manifest themselves. These interpretations of the different human relations with water, animals, trees or other ‘natural’ phenomena, also offer a way to reflect on the  human-material relationships of making.

     Anthropologist Phillipe Descola describes how, in the western world and in countries developing along a western trajectory, human – non-human relationships, play out within broad but specific ontological category: ‘Naturalism’ (Descola, 2005 p.172-174), which in its most basic, unnuanced interpretation, refers to the assumption that ‘nature’, as a phenomena independent from humanity, exists. Only where there is a human – non-human divide, or a separation of culture and nature, can nature become nameable .

     Naturalism represents the dominant lived and material truth in western cultures, it’s inherent disassociation of humans from non-human entities enable nature to be understood as a resource to be manipulated or used. Naturalism also engenders the idea of human exceptionalism – that humans are distinct from all other organisms through our ingenuity and freedom of will. Together these things construct and continuously reinforce a power dynamic where humans assume or seek control over non-human beings, systems and matter.

     Whilst to those of us that have been raised within it, naturalism can seem like a universal truth, it is just one of many ways of being that are manifest in the world. Descola (2005), describes Animism, Totemism, and Analogism, as the key expressions of multiple other ontologies, that are, and have always been, contemporary to Naturalism.

     Animism, Totemism and Analogism do not recognise a human/nature  or natural/cultural divide. In these ontologies, non-human beings, water, trees, animals, rocks, landscapes… can have their own intentions and agencies. Together these ontologies offer alternative ways to be in the world and in the Anthropocene, and present the reality that ‘we humans are not the only ones who know the world,’ (Descola, in Kohn, 2009, p.146), or the only ones thinking and being in it.

     With firm acknowledgement that ontologies can exist in paradoxical and overlapping ways, Descola offers a way of understanding them in comparison to each other. He describes each ontology in terms of its related manifestations of interiority, and physicality (Descola, in Kohn 2009, p.141). Interiority describes how beings share or don’t share an interior experience - such as the ability to communicate or have intentions. Physicality describes how beings share or don’t share external forms or physical anatomy, such as bones, feet or hair. This model is crudely summarised in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Diagram summarising Descola’s ontological categories and his concept of interiority and physicality. Animism, Totemism and Analogism are sometimes collectively described as ‘Animisms’. Diagram by Lisa Meaney
     Ontologically, we are all located somewhere, and our embedded sense of ourselves, in relation to the wider material world frames and restricts our ability to understand and articulate ontologies lived by others. With this in mind, and through my naturalist lens, I offer a description of the way Descola’s categories engender different human – non-human relationships, as a way to emphasise Naturalism as just one ontological ‘story’ amongst others.


Analogists can live within a dense network of analogies that link together intrinsic properties of entities through similarities and resonances (Descola, 2005, p.201 -203.) The North Island indigenous Whanganui Iwi Maori peoples of Aotearoa New Zealand, could be described as expressing aspects of Analogism. The Whanganui River the Whanganui Iwi Maori belong to is for them ‘a figure of co-becoming, a matter of care, an entangled extension of revered being -in-place’ (Adams, 2020 p.133). Their relationship with the Whanganui River is part of a wider Whakapapa, a ‘framework that links all animate and inanimate, known and unknown phenomena in the terrestrial and spiritual worlds’ (Taonui, 2011 p.1).


The Amazonian Achuar peoples live either side of the frontier between Ecuador and Peru, in isolated riverside homes. For the Achuar, all things depend on an ability to create an ‘intersubjective ambience’ (Descola, 2005, p.5) in which relations in the forest flourish. This happens in waking and sleeping. The Achuar connect to the bodies of the animals they hunt, and receive communication from, and are influenced by, the forest beings in dreams. They are aware that the animals that dwell there – their relatives by marriage, talk amongst themselves (Descola, 2005, p. 5-6).


Totemism  is a belief system in which humans have a close relationship with a particular animal or plant – this is their totem. It is practised in many parts of the world, including in Australia by Australian Aboriginal peoples. The totem interacts with a group or individual and is also their emblem or symbol. For Australian Aboriginals totems are believed to be the descendants of the dreamtime heroes, or totemic beings (Australians Together, 2022). In New South Wales, the Wiradjuri people have lived alongside the Wambool, Calare and Murrumbidgee rivers for over 40,000 years. Their totem is The Gugaa – a large Lizard that lives in dry climates (Bathurst Regional Council, 2021).


Naturalism is the prevailing ontology in the Western world (Descola, 2005). In Great Britain, naturalists have a broad moral sense of stewardship and care towards what they describe as ‘Nature’: this includes animals, watercourses, trees and plants. The positive effects of nature on human wellbeing are broadly agreed. Simultaneously, Nature is described and consumed as a resource, and sometimes measured in terms of ‘Natural Capital’ – a term that relates the value of nature directly to the current economic paradigm. Nature is understood to a molecular level of detail, and taught, though objective scientific study - rather than relationally.

     Many of us in the west may hold the idea that indigenous peoples have a better sense of how to maintain planetary integrity than we do. It might seem attractive, even urgent to try to occupy something of a totemist, animist or analogist ontology as a way to avoid the environmental consequences of Naturalism. But the divide between naturalist and other ontologies can seem unnegotiable, and the dangers of appropriation too manifold, to allow even a softening of the boundaries of Naturalism.

     Descola, aligning with Okri’s sense of artistic possibility, says that ‘art, or certain kinds of reflexive thought, or philosophy, enjoy a certain degree of freedom, which affords the possibility of stepping into different ontologies, divorced from the one in which you were born.’ (Descola, in Kohn, 2009, p.142). If this is the gift and responsibility bestowed upon the artist then now is surely a time to explore it fully – and makers with our habits of working closely with the matter of the world, may be uniquely able to participate in this.


     My own attempts to think with other thoughts, to travel ontologically, started off some years ago, as part of a practice of making tents. Influenced by art and design and a desire to make by hand, these spaces, I had imagined, would through their structure and carefully selected materials, cultivate a greater connection to ‘nature’. However, unexpectedly inspired by the writings of feminist science philosopher and biologist Donna Haraway (1998), and feminist theorist and theoretical physicist Karen Barad (2003), the work took on a posthumanist turn. I began to focus not on the creation of temporary architecture, but instead, like posthumanism on the deeper unacknowledged entanglements of human – non-human relationships. In the context of my practice, this meant investigating the human relationship with the material that confounds and enchants anyone sheltering outdoors: water.

     Whilst science, and Naturalism, depend on an assumption that water is inert and can be objectively understood, Haraway (1988) argues that species, even matter, meets humanity with an independent liveliness and capacity to create meaning. In this sense, when water pounds the fabric of the tent as rain, collects inside as condensation, and escapes the warm body of the camper as sweat - it is creating meanings and material experiences. Drinking, swimming, even rowing a boat, are not just things we humans ‘do’ but instead are part of fluid, unfurling, unbounded interactions of agency across humans and water, and any other matter, beings and forces involved. Gravity gives the boat its water line, the glass traps water to make it consumable. Meaning and matter are folded into each other and are always in play. Haraway describes this as ‘sympoiesis’ - an ongoing making-with (Haraway, 2016 p.58, p.125). Barad, from her position within the scientific discipline of physics, also describes the ongoing and mutual metabolising of meaning and matter. For Barad, this ‘intra-active becoming…(is) - not a thing, but a doing, a congealing of agency’ (Barad, 2003 p.828). Together these philosophies offer a way to think and do outside the assumptions of naturalism. They challenge scientific discourse with the possibility of non-human agencies and shared human  – non-human becomings, in this way they relate to the ontologies of Animism, Totemism, and Analogism.

     It is difficult to think outside the ontology one has inherited – especially when it is all one has ever had to think with. But in spirited uncertainty, and through physically ‘doing’, with Barad’s and Haraway’s philosophies in mind, I attempted to enact posthumanist theory with-water. At first, we (water and I) did simple things like spending time together gurgling. One thing led to another, and with my attention, water began to show me what it makes possible. I noticed the heaviness that rose through my body as the bath drained, and contemplated the wider power dynamics of needing a wee. I observed water’s response when offered shapes and folds and weaves of different fabrics, and, listening under various roofs, heard the rain meet materials to form different messages. Some sort of ‘undoing’ of material assumptions began, but for a long time understanding water’s effects as agency - even intention, with parity to my own agencies and intentions, felt confusing and wrong footed.

     Months went on and uncomfortable play continued…in my home, on camping trips, in swimming pools and spas, on ferry boats at sea, with my children, and anyone else who was willing to join in on some seemingly nonsensical re-imaginings of waters already settled status. I slowly sank into a material-semiotic playing field where the fact that nothing was certain seemed less and less of a problem (Meaney, 2013, p.7). It began to feel like very fertile ground.

Figure 2: Pre-dinner water slugging in a pub in England, photo Tom Cox
     Sympoiesis, gradually and playfully brokered, produced unexpected prototypes. When water began an escape from tap to sink in determined plops, I offered a quieter landing on some densely weaved yarn in my hand. Here, to my surprise, it gathered its sparkly-self up into a large and speedy slug, which when lifted to eye level made a frivolous attempt to leap at my face. This shared moment led to the creation of water sluggers, and dribbly pre-dinner ‘slugging’ rituals, performed in humble recognition of our ultimate lack of control of water – before we raise our glasses and settle into consumption (see figures 2 and 3).

      Whilst returning to more architectural explorations, I tried to further break my ontological habits by embracing geographer Jamie Linton’s ‘hydro-social’ ideas (Linton, 2010). Linton proposes that hydrological processes and human processes are inevitably intertwined. For Linton, the infrastructure we create: dams, sewers, even guttering, effect and are part of the water system, as much as oceans and rivers, evaporation and precipitation. This means that objectifying the hydrological cycle is impossible - instead we must admit to our agency within a hydro-social cycle. In recognition of this, charcoal roof slates that adsorb atmospheric contaminants harboured in the rain, were modelled as a friendly hydro-social intervention. The slates point upwards to meet and purify an earth bound downpour, and offer something to and for water, and other earthy beings, from humans, as we dwell together in hydro-sociability (see figure 4).

Figure 3: Water Sluggers, photo Lisa Meaney

Figure 4 Model of tent with charcoal roof slates, photo Lisa Meaney
     A further exploration of shelter based hydro-social relations led to the creation of a ‘Rain Door’. The Rain Door is a panel that zips into a tent. Initially pitched on a family holiday in Weymouth on the south coast of the UK, the door has multiple fabric petals sewn into it. These collect and funnel precipitation directly to the campers inside. For this to work, campers are required to anticipate and embrace the rain by pitching their tent with the rain door facing it. The door subverts normal defensive camper-water relationships. Wet weather, often understood as camping saboteur, is invited to become camping partner, and provide potable water to those dwelling beside the saline sea (see figures 5 and 6). 

     Embracing water as a lively, intentioned collaborator led to creative acts one would not have considered alone (Meaney, 2013, p.6). As we made, and experimented it slowly appeared that water might have intentions not only within but beyond me: sweat, the transfer of subtle minerals into the atmosphere? Tears, perhaps part of water’s bigger plan for ongoing global emotional balance? Other more multi-species and bodily revelations emerged: whilst bouncing a toddler’s spaghetti floats on the side of a pool as extensions of my arms, I understood that whilst we humans fall through water, it is always a silvery flowing solid to the pond skater (Meaney, 2013, p.3), (see figure 7). What substance is it to the eel, or to blooming algae?

Figure 5 The Rain Door, photo Lisa Meaney

Figure 6 External Rain Door close up, from above, photo Lisa Meaney
     As the months went on some long held meta-narratives were on the turn. The idea of water as something to consume and utilise gave way to the sense of an omnipresent, multifarious, and always animating substance, and I understood my physical and imaginative (if relatively limited) ability to reciprocally animate water. Haraway’s assertion that the more-than-human world is “a coding a trickster with whom we must learn to converse” (Haraway, 1988, p.596), began to sound like everything I knew but couldn’t find the words to say. As a maker, this way of being-with, of making-with felt life affirming and full of creative potential, consequently, naturalism began to feel extremely limiting. The idea that water is wholly understood by humans and is simply a resource to manipulate, was exposed as full of dead ends and predicable processes and objects, and a completely unnecessary sense of bodily isolation.

Figure 7  Understanding multispecies relationships with water, photo Tom Cox
A New Sense of Self

     Anthropocene writer Mathew Adams describes in his book ‘Anthropocene Psychology’

that the “holism without boundaries” (Smart & Smart, in Adams, 2020, p.163) advocated by post-humanists, and that I perhaps began to find with-water, can be compared to the Maori ontology. It is a sense of being that finds its identity in relation to and together with, the experience of other beings and matter, across species and place. By these associations the agencies of non-human matter, become part of one’s own identity, and one becomes more than one’s naturalist self.

     Scholar of eco-cultural theory, Stacy Alaimo, created the concept of ‘trans-corporeality’, and offers another way of thinking about human - non human relations. For Alaimo bodies are materially porous to each other, and nature, far from occupying a different realm to us “is as close as one skin – perhaps even closer” (Alaimo, in Adams, 2020, p.150).

     Lucy Attala, anthropologist and author of ‘How Water Makes us Human’ describes how water “flows with and as people as much as it does as clouds and ocean and glaciers” (Attala, 2019, p.46). Attala (2019) advocates a ‘new-materialist’ perspective: we humans must come to see ourselves as materials in relation and dependency with all the other stuff of the world, and with all the other beings that share the stuff of the world. In relation to water this means “…recognis(ing) ourselves as watery bodies among other water bodies, all sloshing around in a watery world” (Neimanis, 2012, in Attala, 2019, p.45).

     The propositions of shared materiality, trans-corporeality, non-human agency and  intra-activity begin to collapse the boundaries between humans and all that is non-human. This means we must reckon with ourselves, not as consumers or controllers, but as the “very stuff of the emergent material world” (Alaimo, 2016, p.8)

     In some fluid assemblage, these concepts inform what endures as the bodily known, and deeply transformative effect of my own posthumanist experiments: whilst the utilities around us every day - the tap and the kettle, the washing machine, might try to train us to forget…water becomes us. A journey through uncomfortable unlearning and play, with Haraway and Barad as guides, led to a new lived truth…on its never ending multi manifesting journey through all that lives on earth and through all time, water only briefly lends my jellied eyes the liquid needed to see. On its way to somewhere else, or to be something else to some other non-human earthling or matter, it flows the blood to my hands to make, and floats my thinking mind. I meet water now, as a substance with its own intention, agency and purpose. No longer only a naturalist - I understand, in my days, and work and being, that my liveliness resides in water, I have a different sense of self as internally connected to its flows.

Making new worlds

     For Haraway “[i]t matters with which ways of living and dying we cast our lot rather than others” (Haraway, 2016, p.55). “It matters what ideas we use to think other ideas” (Strathern, 1992, p.10). The thoughts we think with in part create - and are part of our ‘worldings’: the ongoing, active ontological process of the ‘setting up of’ the world, through words, acts, and relationships (Palmer & Hunter, 2018). In this troubled time of species decline and climate change “it matters what worlds world worlds” (Haraway, 2016, p.35) and we need new worlds to world with.

     Whilst there are many strong arguments and poetic incitements for re-imagining our human – non-human relationships, how to ‘do the doing’ of this, is an area relatively unexplored. Attempting to enact post-humanism with-water is one method. Post-humanism’s emergence through a tenacious and informed critique of science, means it is ironically rooted in Naturalism, and for those that insist on academic rigour, this lends the approach credibility. However ontologies are not in themselves rigorous, but instead full of paradox and nuance. In this sense, beyond overt explorations of post-humanism, western makers already exist in a uniquely complex ontological relationship with matter. Schooled from childhood in a naturalist knowledge-based objectification of the world, and living naturalist lives, we are also beguiled everyday by the limits, intentions, and permissions of matter and other worldly agencies as we make. Every maker knows that the best work lets the material speak. To make, is to collaborate with the stuff that is in your hands, to let the material change your ideas and actions, as you in turn try to influence the material. To make is to already acknowledge relations across matter.

     In this sense, making, in some new-materialist fashion, holds the un-actualised inklings of more-than-human ontologies. The shared interiorities and physicalities of water are revealed not only by posthumanism but by the practices of intelligent, haptic play, of material curiosity and responsiveness quotidian to the disciplined creative. These everyday agential intra-actions and non-naturalist relations, are the rarely articulated, paradoxical and currently powerless, thin un-naturalist storylines within the thick story of naturalism….the quiet signs that other worldings are possible and already present, and that material creative practice is a ready place to re-world from.

Business as Usual

     Feminist environmentalist Eileen Crist describes how naming an era after ourselves “accepts the humanisation of the earth as a reality” (Crist, 2013, p.141). The term Anthropocene focuses us on our own power and exceptionalism, this encourages us to forefront technological solutions to climate change and scientific understandings of biodiversity loss. For Crist, the term Anthropocene works to conceal the possibility of exploring other ways of being. One can experience this in environmental work. There is no room for questioning the ontological status quo in the ongoing community discussions around ‘Greening’ the Oxfordshire town I live in. We speak in objective terms about the state of the river our town is named after, but not about how we and the river are animated by the very same substance. At work my colleagues are dedicated to conserving the rare chalk streams of the Chiltern Hills – whilst we regularly share our enthusiasm for enhancing ecosystems, I instinctively keep my watery re-worldings to myself.  At global climate summits too, goals for clean water and sanitation, although ambitious and commendable, are expressed in firmly naturalist terms (Global Goals, 2022). Even in places of great care and concern, or political action “[t]he freedom of humanity to choose a different way of inhabiting Earth is tacitly assumed absent” (Crist, 2013, p.138).

     It is hard to argue for new realities of water as self, or the vitality of the material knowledge in the crafts person’s hands, when there is not so much to practically do. It is tempting also to secure the deep material relations of making, and the tangible objects it produces, as some sort of reprieve or distraction from environmental work and uncertainty. However if as some suspect, the Anthropocene is less a confirmation of our human ability to frame an epoch, and more a ‘parenthesis of infinitesimal brevity’ (Kerns, in Adams, 2020, p.6) - where western society has become the axis between one manifestation of life on earth and another, the ontological future could be up for grabs, and it may be time for makers to break cover.

Making friends by making trouble

     Post-humanist’s embrace the Anthropocene, not as an era, but as an invitation - to recognise and articulate deeply felt loses, and to ‘stay with the trouble’ of the now (Haraway, 2016). This means getting involved in difficult conversations, challenging the language, the power, and the positioning of humans amongst other beings and matter, and questioning the narratives of Naturalism. For makers, re-framing our already established deep material relations within new materialism, intra-activity, or as sympoiesis, will take us quickly towards the trouble. Arguing for one’s right, to be understood for instance as water, as well as human, will take us into the thick of it.

     Any creative practitioner that has been reshaped by the more-than-human relationships of their practice might also see the Anthropocene as an invitation, to speak up for the colourful lives and multiple agencies of matter, but outside of their community and artistic discipline. Could we bring to unfamiliar places the realities of our own material becomings? Could we begin to advocate, through our re-discovery of material relationships, for more-than-humans who are also uniquely in relation with-matter, with-water, with us? Could this alternative story interrupt the ‘business as usual’ conversation, offer an inkling of common ground to those who have always lived as non-naturalists, and a relatable way for naturalists to recognise the beginnings of other possible worldings?

     When the parties of the world convene to discuss the future of our planet, the peoples that Descola might describe in animist, analogist and totemist terms fight to weave their relational worlds into the fabric of possible futures (Lakhani 2021). A new-materialist, posthumanist way of thinking also “realizes that the perpetuation of any notion of separation is materially false, damaging and unsustainable” (Attala, 2019, p.61). If new post-human relationships, new material relationships, are essential for a sustainable future, the maker’s ability to experience “a distinct softening of the boundary between the world and the self” (Rushdie, 1996, p.8 quoted in Pallasmaa, 2009, p.19), is worth asserting. Crafters, artists, designers, who have been brought up in Naturalism, and also understand through our thinking hands, and curious minds, the agencies of water, wood, clay, metal, fabric, wool, and the forces of heat, atmosphere and gravity…that act upon us as we make, can also insist on our right to bring our truths to the discourse of climate change and biodiversity loss. But this depends first on daring to think that the quiet stories in our hands and hearts, the new ontologies and worldings that intimate, playful, material practices enable, that water enables, seriously matter. As Okri (2015, p.18) reflects, “…sometimes the biggest tasks are approached tangentially, with a smile in the soul.”


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