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The Interpretation of Cultures:

In addition to anthropological research that discovers or theorizes animisms (in various ways) and categorizations of the world’s religions that include “animists,” it is instructive to consider animism in imaginative literatures. Three examples might suffice. In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982) the heroine, Celie, finally stands up to her main abuser and finds that the elements are with her. Her statement, “I am here” can be read as foundational for Walker’s later autobiographical accounts of her own spiritual quest in which it is good to be “here.” In a very different style, Daniel Quinn’s didactic novels (beginning with Ishmael, 1995) provoke a consideration that the majority of human cultures are preferable to that of the West. These “leaver” societies assaulted by “taker” culture and its “totalitarian agriculture” demonstrate alternative ways to be human and encourage efforts to create better alternatives for the future. His animism is a principled evocation of the possibility that humanity might live as others live: leaving what is not needed now for others or ourselves to share in the future, going beyond the discourse of sustainability to the celebration of diverse modes of engaging with the world. Central to these novels, once again, is a debate about the commonalities and diversities of culture(s) and nature(s). Finally, in this brief introduction to recent literatures of animism, much Fantasy Fiction suggests that the world is inhabited by a wide range of autonomous living beings with their own interests and concerns. Whether these be speaking trees or elusive elves, it seems that life (including communication, intelligence, suffering, joy and so on) is to be fo