5.02.2013

Non-Western/ OOO? Is a Rapprochement Even Needed?

In The Politics of Nature (2004), Bruno Latour quips that there is no guarantee his re-assembled collective of the human and non-human “is going to come off well… [or] the participants are all going to find themselves in the ecumenical equivalent of some Woodstock festival in honor of Gaia” (82). Yet, assumptions akin to this plague both object-oriented analyses and common misperceptions of indigenous North American philosophies, often refuting them before they are seriously considered.
Critiques like these are often born of misinterpreting or judging too quickly the content of the message rather than seriously considering what Latour or others are saying. The problem is a failure to "get real" with either Latour and his object-inspired collaborators or with the complexity of indigenous cultures as they attempt to revive and make relevant decimated philosophies within a radically changed social order.


One way to "get real" about OOO and non-Western metaphysics is by reading the quasi-spiritual explanation of power by Lakota elder, Fools Crow, as told to Thomas Mails (1991). For Fools Crow, power is our own, “natural,” energy that can be supplemented by asking other “spiritual” powers such as the power of rock, sky, or deer. Thus, Fools Crow may provide clues to a non-Western conception of assembling the social. While we should be careful here to not conflate the two, distinct, cultural traditions within which Latour and Fools Crow work, a comparative look at these ways of thinking might help broaden the conversation and forge alliances (Powell 2004) necessary for what Latour calls the articulation of propositions. In turn, this could lead to other culturally animated articulations in the kind of political ecology Latour calls for.

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