VERMILLION, S.D. – David C. Posthumus, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology at the University of South Dakota, has been invited to serve as a guest professor this summer at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz’s Center for Intercultural Studies in Germany, where he will lecture and lead workshops on his research on Lakota Sioux ceremonial life.
Posthumus is a cultural anthropologist who has worked with the Lakota community at Pine Ridge Reservation since 2008. His research focuses on the intersections of Lakota culture, history, language, identity, spirituality and exploring continuity and change in Lakota ceremonial life. He is the author of “All My Relatives: Exploring Lakota Ontology, Belief, and Ritual” (University of Nebraska Press, 2018).
His research explores Lakota belief and ritual from an ontological or new animist perspective. Animism is a concept with a troubled past, linked to racist social evolutionary ideas of the late nineteenth century. Recently, however, scholars have revisited the concept, separating it from past value judgements and seeing it as a spiritual alternative found in countless societies around the world.
“Animism is the idea that objects and nonhumans can have a spirit or soul comparable to humans,” Posthumus said. “This new animist lens can really help us to understand and appreciate the truth and beauty in Lakota culture and spirituality.”
Posthumus has worked on a number of collaborative projects with Sioux communities. From 2008-2013 he worked on the Lakota Language Project, a K-12 Lakota language curriculum development project managed by Red Cloud Indian School at Pine Ridge and Indiana University. More recently, Posthumus has worked on grant projects documenting traditional cultural knowledge with the Pine Ridge Lakota community and the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska.
“Community-based, collaborative research is very important,” said Posthumus. “And including young people in research, both native and nonnative, is a great way to help them develop their skill sets and experience and appreciate cultural diversity.”