Geographically, this chapter bridges the vast zone of the globe that I call Oceania, stretching from the American west coasts to the Pacific Islands, the Philippines, Maluku, New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.1 Indigenous religion across this space — whether ancestral, Islamic or Christian — is best understood as local variations on a common pattern, each emergent within mobile historical, social and ecological settings. From this anthropological, rather than theological perspective, past and present Oceanian religions are not detached from worldly existence in a transcendent domain, as with much modern Christianity. Rather, religion is an embodied experience, encompassing human beings, gods or God, spirits, fauna, plants, places, rocks and other things within complex webs of relationship.2 Tenacious but not unchanging, this pervasive practical religiosity supplies truths (ontology), knowledge (cosmology), explanations (aetiology) and ways of celebrating, influencing or controlling the world (ritual). In such contexts, there is neither justice nor logic in persistent evolutionist dichotomies which consign most of the world’s populations to the ‘non-West’ and brand them negatively as ‘backward’ and ‘superstitious’, in opposition to the supposedly ‘western’ qualities of the ‘modern’ and the ‘rational’.
Swipe to navigate through the chapters of this book
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
- Macmillan Education UK
- Sequence number
- Chapter number