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

A wonderfully articulated piece by Zoe Todd on the curious case of the ontological turn, from an indigenous feminist perspective. Could not agree more that we must continue to look to our indigenous scholars, friends and mentors first and foremost, and recognise many of these theoretical leanings as representative of indigenous teachings – despite lack of citation as such.

Todd’s piece reminds me of an article I stumbled upon earlier this year with similar themes of decolonising anthropological research titled What If I Just Cite Graciela? Working Towards Decolonizing Knowledge in Critical Ethnography (2008). Mariolga Reyes Cruz discusses the tensions in the assumption that ethnographers must cite famous thinkers (like the Great Latour Zoe mentions), while her indigenous informants cannot be cited in the same way for their theorisations about their own lives. Our informants’ theories are usually framed as “data” while these great thinkers are deemed “theory”. To cite our informants as theory on par with these famous thinkers would be a decolonising practice, yet it isn’t standard. At all. And not just in ethnography.

We have a lot of work to do in the ways we engage indigenous peoples and in turn “represent” (for lack of a better word) them in our writing. Yet reading pieces from emerging PhDs like Todd and Reyes Cruz gives me hope that the face of the social sciences is changing and that we are moving towards a more decolonising approach.

speculative fish-ctions (Dr. Zoe Todd)

Personal paradigm shifts have a way of sneaking up on you. It started, innocently enough, with a trip to Edinburgh to see the great Latour discuss his latest work in February 2013. I was giddy with excitement: a talk by the Great Latour. Live and in colour! In his talk, on that February night, he discussed the climate as sentient the climate as a ‘common cosmopolitical concern’ [thank you to commenter Philip for pointing out my error in my recollection of the nature of Latour’s assertion about the climate — discussion of this in the comments below]. Funny, I thought, this sounds an awful lot like the little bit of Inuit cosmological thought I have been taught by Inuit friends (friends who have taught me that the climate is an incredibly important organizing concept for many actors). I waited, through the whole talk, to hear the Great Latour credit Indigenous thinkers for…

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