Elizabeth A. Povinelli is Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University and the author of, most recently,
The Fossils and the Bones
Chapter 3 starts with a conversation between the author and two of her Indigenous colleagues on a remote beach in the Northern Territory of Australia after the discovery of the rib cage of a durlgmö (a plesiosaurus). The chapter uses this and other personal and aesthetic encounters with fossils and bones to demonstrate how contemporary debates in speculative realism and object-oriented ontologies engage, contain, and discipline Indigenous understandings of the fundamental task of human thought in the context of awa-gami-mari-ntheni (a manifestation)—when something not merely appears to something or someone else but discloses itself as comment on the coordination, orientation, and obligation of local existents—in contemporary settler late liberalism. Three aspects of manifestation are especially important to the discussion: a presupposition about the entanglements of substances; a hypothesis about the relationship between entanglement substance and manifestations; and a claim about the relationship between truth and obligation.