Indigenizing the Anthropocene? Specifying and situating multi-species encounters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to articulate a meaningful response to recent calls to “indigenize” and “decolonize” the Anthropocene in the social sciences and humanities; and in doing so to challenge and extend dominant conceptualisations of the Anthropocene offered to date within a posthuman and more-than-human intellectual context.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper develops a radical material and relational ontology, purposefully drawing on an indigenous knowledge framework, as it is specifically exemplified in Maori approaches to anthropogenic impacts on species and multi-species entanglements. The paper takes as its focus particular species of whales, trees and humans and their entanglements. It also draws on, critically engages with, and partially integrates posthuman and more-than-human theory addressing the Anthropocene.

Findings – The findings of this study are that we will benefit from approaching the Anthropocene from situated and specific ontologies rooted in place, which can frame multi-species encounters in novel and productive ways.

Research limitations/implications – The paper calls for a more expansive and critical version of social science in which the relations between human and more-than-human becomes much more of a central concern; but in doing so it must recognize the importance of multiple histories, knowledge systems and narratives, the marginalization of many of which can be seen as a symptom of ecological crisis. The paper also proposes adopting Zoe Todd’s suggested tools to further indigenize the Anthropocene – though there remains much more scope to do so both theoretically and methodologically.

Practical implications – The paper argues that Anthropocene narratives must incorporate deeper colonial histories and their legacies; that related research must pay greater attention to reciprocity and relatedness, as advocated by posthuman scholarship in developing methodologies and research agendas; and that non-human life should remain firmly in focus to avoid reproducing human exceptionalism.

Social implications – In societies where populations are coming to terms in different ways with living through an era of environmental breakdown, it is vital to seek out forms of knowledge and progressive collaboration that resonate with place and with which progressive science and humanities research can learn and collaborate; to highlight narratives which “give life and dimension to the strategies – oppositional, affirmative, and yes, often desperate and fractured – that emerge from those who bear the brunt of the planet’s ecological crises” (Nixon, 2011, p. 23).

Originality/value – The paper is original in approaching the specific and situated application of indigenous ontologies in some of their grounded everyday social complexity, with the potential value of opening up the Anthropocene imaginary to a more radical and ethical relational ontology.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2019


  • climate change
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Colonialism
  • Anthropocene
  • posthuman
  • posthumanism
  • Place
  • Climate change
  • More-than-human
  • Multi-species
  • Posthuman


Dive into the research topics of 'Indigenizing the Anthropocene? Specifying and situating multi-species encounters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this