An Indigenous Feminist’s take on the Ontological Turn: ‘ontology’ is just another word for colonialism

This post below is reblogged from Urbane Adventurer: Amiskwacî, written  on It is posted here because “ontology,” “vibrant matter,” “new materialisms,” and other terms that mark the Ontological Turn in theory appear regularly in discard scholarship, almost always without reference to its precursors in Indigenous thought. The ontological turn covers a broad range of ideas in different disciplines, but is basically focused on a being-ness, liveness, or agency of non-humans. It’s about how things are in relation with one another, regardless of whether they are human.

The post has a great–and essential–critique of a major issue in scholarship when it comes to borrowing (or kidnapping) terms, ideas, and cosmologies from other peoples, and what an ethics of writing about ontology ought to account for. One of the things that has always bothered me about “vibrant matter” and the idea that “everything is, in a sense, alive” (Bennett 2009, 117) is not that it is basically animist (believing that non-humans have life, spirit, etc), but that animism has a whole set of ethics attached to it and those are left out of academia. If you posit that everything around you is alive, you’d better act like it and mind your relations.

Zoe Todd’s post has a short video primer on some of the ontological ideas of various Indigenous scholars, to which I would add:

Blaser, M. (2014). Ontology and indigeneity: on the political ontology of heterogeneous assemblages.cultural geographies, 21(1), 49-58.
Cameron, E., de Leeuw, S., & Desbiens, C. (2014). Indigeneity and ontology. Cultural Geographies, 21(1), 19-26.
Hunt, S. (2014). Ontologies of Indigeneity: the politics of embodying a concept. cultural geographies, 21(1), 27-32.
Todd, Zoe. (2015). “Indigenizing the Anthropocene” in Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and EpistemologiesDavis, H., & Turpin, E. Open Humanities Press. 241-254.