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

Panel Chair: Siv Ellen Kraft | Thursday, August 27, 3:30-5:30 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.

Trude Fonneland

The Indigenous Festival of Isogaisa and Religious Meaning Making in the Present

The presentation will focus on the indigenous festival of Isogaisa held in Lavangen Northern Norway, which is presented as highlighting the spiritual traditions of an indigenous people. At this festival shamans from Norway, Russia, Greenland, Canada, New Zealand, and South America yearly gather to perform ceremonies and exchange knowledge. Isogaisa is but one of many examples of how shamanism is expressed in contemporary society, still the festival can be described as a major venue for shamanic religion making in the present. It also sheds light on how inter-cultural commonality between indigenous groups has become infused with notions of them as one spiritual community - notions, which it is argued, have increasingly become part of “the common terminology of indigeneity,” for instance in UN fora and international law. Concerned with sense-making on emic grounds, I focus on ways contemporary shamans anchor their practices in ancient indigenous pasts, or what they see and experience as common ancient pasts.

Seth Schermerhorn

Global Indigeneity and Local Christianity: Performing O'odham Identity in the Present

By the early twenty-first century, both indigeneity and Christianity have gone global. As diverse Christianities are appropriated in indigenous communities, it has perhaps become harder to identify any putatively monolithic characteristics of Christianity. At the same time, as the category of indigeneity becomes more salient, the repertoire of articulations and performances of indigeneity remain somewhat fixed. One prominent example of this is hyperbolic valorization of the relationships between indigenous peoples and their land. However, if scholars of religion must denaturalize "Christianity" as a known quantity, the same must also be done with the category of indigeneity. Among the O'odham, who predominately live along the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, contemporary articulations and performances of O'odham identity range from the folklorization of indigeneity to the indigenization of Christianity. In particular, I have previously argued that some O'odham have indigenized Christianity by embedding, or emplacing, Christianity into the landscape.

James L. Cox

Global Intentions and Local Conflicts: The Rise and Fall of Ambuya Juliana in Zimbabwe

In the mid-1990s, the Ambuya Juliana movement was hailed by eminent scholars, such as Terence Ranger, as probably the most important new religious movement in Africa. Ambuya Juliana had created a mass movement across southern Zimbabwe calling for a return to traditional patterns of life. At the same time, she had drawn on Christian symbols to convey her message. By 1995, she had extended her mission to Botswana and Mozambique, and reportedly even had a vision of carrying her message of traditional values to the United Kingdom. Almost as suddenly as her influence had spread, it waned and had virtually disappeared by the end of the 1990s. It is likely that Juliana had transgressed local indigenous protocols, primarily by ignoring the traditional authority of chiefs. This case demonstrates the power of the authority of indigenous traditions with respect to global movements, particularly when the global challenge to the local authority is regarded as illegitimate.


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Open Sessions

Thematic Outline

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