Podcast episode 6: David Abram

The Insurrection Interviews podcast is part of Magic and Ecology, a year-long series of talks and online events where we invite researchers thinking about magic in relation to ecology, and practitioners working with magic to transform modes of earth-living in order to enable collaborative thinking across disciplines and practices. In this episode your hosts Simone Kotva and Alice Tarbuck talk the ecology of magic, animal becoming and the speech of the world with Dr David Abram.


Stills from the Zoom interview with David Abram

David is a cultural ecologist, philosopher and sleight-of-hand magician whose ground-breaking work has been critical in demonstrating the parallels between environmental thinking and animism, bringing Indigenous epistemologies into dialogue with Western philosophy. In the 1990s David coined the term “more-than-human”, a concept which draws out the overlap that exists, in many traditional societies as well as in pre-modern philosophy, between spiritual beings and nonhuman creatures, an overlap that, he argues, can help us to unlearn the modern dualisms of mind over matter that have proven so unhelpful to environmental thinking: The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (1997). 


In his recent work, Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (2010), David continues to explore what it is like to be human in a more-than-human world. Here he reflects at length on language and speech, and on the relationship, so often overlooked, between the way in which we name things in our environment and our ability to perceive and to participate in that environment with care, but also with pleasure and joy. One of the striking features of David’s work is the pleasure taken in the act of speaking and writing itself, making storytelling about the more-than-human a means of thinking with the varied forms of earth-living; his writing becomes itself a means of transforming our perception of what is described, told and named. 

David’s work on ecology and magic has been instrumental in catalysing several new disciplines, and he has been the recipient of various awards and fellowships, including Rockefeller and Watson fellowships and the Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction. He is also co-founder of The Alliance for Wild Ethics, where you can explore more of David’s work in the Animate Earth Dialogs series. As one of the very first writers to talk about the relationship between ecology and magic, David’s work has been an inspiration for this project, so it was a special delight and honour to have him here with us.

Co-hosting in this special episode is Dr Alice Tarbuck, who is also interviewed in podcast episode 7


MAGIC AND ECOLOGY is hosted by CRASSH the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge, and co-convened by Hjördis Becker-Lindenthal, Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe and Simone Kotva.