Animation and projection

Just a few notes on what I intend to do with this bit of the site when I have more time ...

Discussions of animism often assert or assume that animists (children or indigenous people in particular) mistakenly project human-like characteristics, attributes or abilities (e.g., consciousness, intention, language) on to objects and beings that should allegedly be considered inanimate or impersonal. The act of projection may not be deliberate or intentional: it may be that there is a “natural” and universal propensity to assume intention and personhood until disconfirmation is abundantly clear. This is well argued by Stewart Guthrie (Fordham University) in his book, Faces in the Clouds: A New Theory of Religion (Oxford University Press, 1995).

The terms “animate” and “project” are used in discourses about childhood development and about human cultural evolution. (I note this in my book in discussing Piaget and co.) But they are also key words in conversations about films.

So, I propose to consider what discussion of animated and projected films might say the other kinds of animism that I'm interested in.

I picked those words carefully so that I could ask “how does a film say something?” and then ask “is that an appropriate question?”. That is, am I projecting animate abilities on to a human product? More widely, Harry Garuba's discussion of animist realism discusses the lively agency of ideas in a range of West African and other novels. But this isn't only an adjunct to my discussion (still in need of expansion) of Garuba and animist realism. Nor is it only going to be a list of animate films. However ...

However, I am interested in films that portray, evoke or assume an animate cosmos; and in those that project human-likeness on to other-than-human persons.

The first may include films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoko.

The second may include stuff like Tom and Jerry.

All those examples are "animated" films, of course. But maybe I need to include other stuff too.
This short film of a moment near the end of the Newbury Bypass action may be a good example of a film that seems to portray animals acting intentionally to prevent or protest human folly.

Because it is now time to go to the woods to collect greenery in honour of the winter solstice (2005), I have to switch off my computer. Before I go, though, I want to note an article I read last night while at the A&E department waiting for a doctor to see Molly (she's torn ligaments in a knee and ankle). In yesterday's The Times there's an article about research conducted at the University of Bath about children's hatred towards Barbie dolls. Dr Nairn said (here's the press release) that “On a deeper level [than being objectionable symbols of excess] Barbie has become inanimate. She has lost any individual warmth that she might have possessed if she were perceived as a singular person. This might go some way to explaining the violence and torture [commonly inflicted on the dolls by children aged between 7 and 11].” (Alexandra Frean, "Barbarism begins with Barbie, the doll children love to hate" 19 December 2005, page 5). I think that deserves some thought ... and some celebration!


4 January 2005: in searching for other stuff I found that Chas Clifton has linked to my site and noted my work in relation to a debate (if that's the correct term) about Disney animation. Click here for his 11 September 2005 blog on this.


March 2008:

sincere apologies to those (I know of a least three!) who've noticed this page and may have been expecting more. I have been collecting info and ideas. I do need to improve this page. I do. I will.

meanwhile, there is some intestering discussion of related (not identical) matter in Arran Stibbe's article "Zen and the Art of Environmental Education in the Japanese Animated Film Tonari no Totoro" in the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture 1.4 (2007): 468-88.








  Return to animism homepage
  Animist Realism
  Narrow Animism
  Panpsychism and Hylozoism
  More Ethnography
  Living it
 you are here Animation and projection
  Wights and other persons
  Shamans and animists
Darwin's animism
  Animist manifesto