Accepted Paper:

The impact of religious and cultural heterogeneity on local perceptions of nature and natural resource management in Guinea-Bissau  

Author:

Hannah Parathian (CRIA-NOVA FCSH)

Paper short abstract:

Beyond the transition from 'primitive' to 'modern' a number of African peoples merge non-animist religions with indigenous belief systems. I consider the effects of religious and cosmological heterogeneity on local perceptions of nature and their impact on resource management in Guinea-Bissau.

Paper long abstract:

Traditional African ideology sees all beings, whether human, animal or plant, existing as equal elements in a holistic and connected vision of the universe. However, the gradual and consistent ousting of indigenous cultures and belief systems by more globally 'powerful' religions has been routinely documented. Indeed, Guinea-Bissau is a prime example of one country which juxtaposes a distinct yet fused mélange of peoples with complex ethnic backgrounds and cultural nuances, on account of a convoluted political history and various processes of development and religious doctrine. Beyond the speculative transition from 'primitive' to 'modern' local people have reformulated tradition, adopting seemingly dichotic worldviews, merging facets of non-animist religions with existing 'traditional' thought. Solving current ecological crises requires an understanding of the complex ways in which these components are created, combined and transformed. With new insights into biocultural diversity at the forefront of conservation discourse and innovative methods in anthropology pushing the boundaries of research beyond the more familiar human-nature milieu, I discuss the impact that religious and cosmological heterogeneity has on local perceptions of nature and resource management among two ethnic groups in Guinea-Bissau. Pre-Islamic and Muslim cosmologies of the Nalú in Cantanhez, and multi-species associations among animist Bijagó people, who were once the focus of Christian 'pacification campaigns' during Portuguese colonialism, will be the focus of this discussion.

Panel P071
Legacies and futures of animism in the anthropocene