Accepted Paper:

The Alleluia syncretic revitalization movement  

Author:

Daniel Cooper (University of Oxford)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes the Alleluia movement and compares it with Anthony F.C. Wallace's concept of a revitalization movement derived from his work with the Iroquois in North America and their Old Way of Handsome Lake movement (1972).

Paper long abstract:

Before Europeans arrived in the New World, local indigenous populations maintained complex spiritual beliefs and practices intimately connected with surrounding landscapes. The arrival of new diseases, technologies, and belief systems brought about radical changes for indigenous communities; they also triggered diverse forms of resistance, refuge, syncretism, and revitalization.

The Alleluia Indians in the Guiana Highlands of South America are one example of a culture that creatively adapted to exogenous forces of change. After years of missionary presence throughout the region, especially from the English Anglican Church starting in the 1800s, many syncretic and prophet movements emerged. Many have since disappeared, but Alleluia remains. They consider themselves to be Christian, though others take issue with this claim since Alleluia synthesizes traditional shamanic/animist beliefs and practices with introduced Christian ontologies.

This paper draws from primary ethnographic data in the form of oral histories gathered during doctoral fieldwork in the Upper Mazaruni River basin in March and April 2013. These narratives are systematically analyzed and compared with Anthony F.C. Wallace's concept of a revitalization movement (RM) derived from his work with the Iroquois in North America and the Old Way of Handsome Lake movement (1972). Ultimately, Alleluia is classified as a highland shamanic revitalization movement because of the unique role that shamanism and geography play in its history and the fact that it includes the following key components of a RM: 1) prophet leaders; 2) a syncretic code adapted to material and conceptual intrusion to reduce stress; and 3) institutionalization.

Panel C12
Colliding theories, cultures, and futures. STS view(s) beyond the horizon. Or: STS diaspora