Seeing and knowing: Metamorphosis and the fragility of species in Chewong animistic ontology

Signe Howell shows in her chapter in Animism in Southeast Asia  how the Chewong (hunters and gatherers of Peninsular Malaysia), are prototypical animists in the conventional definition of ontologies which assign agency and personhood to human and non-human beings alike.   

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Indeed, the Chewong cosmology is of the perspectivist variety characteristic of Amerindians. However,  while the Chewong world is populated by different kinds of ‘people’ distinguished by their species-specific bodies and eyes, but formally identical in terms of soul (consciousness) across the whole range of embodied subjects, Howell argues that the body-soul-eyes nexus constitutes separate identities that are vulnerable to permanent metamorphosis.

Published Dec. 18, 2015 9:58 AM