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Indigenous Religion(s): Local Grounds, Global Networks (3/4)

A270
Panel Chair: Siv Ellen Kraft | Thursday, August 27, 1:30-3 p.m. | Venue

Globalizing discourses concerning indigenous religion(s) exist today in contexts like academia, the art world, indigenous peoples’ activism, judicial practices, tourism, and the UN. They thrive on a flexible but fairly standardized repertoire of assumed similarities in religions of indigenous peoples: harmony with nature, sacred land, healing and holism, antiquity and spirituality, shamanism and animism. Scholars like James Clifford (2013) and Ronald Niezen (2012) have referred to the increasing cultural and political importance of such formations. Yet we know little about articulations and implications on local indigenous grounds. Neither do we know well the dynamics and the reach of the networks through which these discourses travel. How are they performed, translated, and mediated? And how do they get related to claims of belonging and struggles for sovereignty? The case studies presented in this panel examine these questions from different geographical, historical, and methodological perspectives.

Takeshi Kimura

The Ainu Religion after Assimilation and Loss

Today the Ainu people develop their activities in locally different ways and in globally different ways by contesting for their views of their religion in their relationships to Japan and the global community. Due to the assimilation policy and the loss of some traditions since the mid-19th century, the Ainu religious traditions have fallen into disarray. After the New Ainu Law of 1997, which promotes the Ainu culture but does not recognize Ainu sovereignty, the social conditions changed for the Ainu. At different social levels, different Ainu groups began to claim their own version of their religious traditions. With the UN as a backup, some Ainu activists attempt to claim sovereignty based upon their religious notion of the land. Some Ainu became more actively involved in constructing a global animistic connection with other indigenous peoples. A municipal government plans to construct a public Ainu natural park reflecting the Ainu view of nature as a tourist attraction.

Suzanne Owen

Unsettled Natives in the Newfoundland Imaginary

Wiped out through the impact of colonisation, the Beothuk people in Newfoundland are the ‘absent other’ who continue to be remembered and made present through the creative arts. In their book, The Postcolonial Uncanny, Gelder and Jacobs refer to the ‘unsettled settlers’ in Australia in relation to ‘place’ with issues of aboriginal land rights and anxieties linked to a changing environment. Likewise, in Newfoundland there is a postcolonial uneasiness that can disrupt a sense of belonging in a place where once dwelled the Beothuk. However, there are now competing claims to being ‘native’ between people of Mi’kmaq (another indigenous group) and settler descent, affected by global discourses on indigeneity relating to land and heritage. This paper investigates how the theme of ‘unsettled natives’ – referring to both the subject and the object – is depicted in literature and art where the presence of the extinct Beothuk haunts the Newfoundland imaginary.

Jon Henrik Ziegler Remme

Ethnographies Returned: Truth, Completeness and Authenticity and the Dynamics of Ifugao Indigenous Religion

One importance source for the globalised discourse on indigenous religions is the ethnography produced by academic researchers. By comparative and analytical concepts ethnographies enact similarities and differences between various cultural groups, which eventually gain significant political and cultural purchase in issues related to identity, belonging and sovereignty. In this paper I examine how ethnographies on Ifugao (the Philippines) animistic religion through the 1900s have influenced on the dynamics of Ifugao cultural self-awareness, particularly through the assumptions in these works regarding notions of truth, completeness and authenticity. I discuss how these assumptions have shaped Ifugao self-perceptions regarding ethnohistory, their relations to the Filipino national state, to national and international tourists as well as inter-village political dynamics and relations between young and old ritual experts. The paper thus examines how ethnographies travel and return to indigenous people themselves and traces particularly the implications of local receptions of these ethnographic works.

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