Accepted Paper:

On conceptual analogy: a new analytical approach to religious syncretism - a case study from Alaska  


Medeia Csoba DeHass (Dartmouth College)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the correlations between religious syncretism and the practices of re-negotiated local identities through the case study of a Sugpiaq village in Alaska. Furthermore, it will investigate the connections between religious conversion and the dynamics of secular life, with particular attention to the thought processes that facilitate religious and cultural synthesis.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I am proposing to examine a case study from a Native Alaskan Russian Orthodox village. Through the framework of religious syncretism, I will present how Sugpiat Russian Orthodoxy affected, and at the same time was influenced by, non-religious spheres of society. I am using the notion of conceptual analogy, which I define as a set of corresponding ideas originating from two different patterns of thought, in this case Sugpiaq and Russian Orthodox, which facilitates the integration and re-interpretation of foreign religious ideas into the local cultural environment. By doing so, it results in the creation of a new religious concept that on the one hand became one of the most expressive elements of Sugpiaq identity, and on the other, influences other spheres of the local social milieu that are considered to be secular in nature. Therefore, the success of Orthodoxy in the single-denominational community of Nanwalek is due to the combination of several factors that are all connected by and created on the basis of a conceptual analogy between religion and the traditional local concept of social life.

Panel W064
Interpreting religious diversity: conversion, syncretism and religious practice