Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Static crosses and working spirits: anti-syncretism and agricultural animism in Catholic West Flores

By Catherine Allerton

Abstract

In southern Manggarai, in the west of the Indonesian island of Flores, Catholicism has a long history and people assert the importance of their identity as Catholics. Nevertheless, they also continue to engage, both pragmatically and in ritual contexts, with a landscape that they experience and describe as full of spirits and energies. As an example of this, I consider a ritual to renew the fertility of a river feeding into wet-rice fields. Despite attempts by the Catholic Church to 'inculturate' the faith in Manggarai, many people adopt an attitude best described as anti-syncretism, in which they reject the possibility of a fully Catholic landscape. I argue that the resilience of this anti-syncretic spiritual landscape can be explained both by the particular nature of the Catholic mission on Flores and local adherence to a strict separation of 'religion' (agama) from the 'custom' (adat) associated with the land. Drawing on recent literature reviving the concept of animism, I suggest that Manggarai people's engagements with their spiritual landscape are a form of 'agricultural animism'. However, like all animisms, this has a specific history, including responses to shifts in spiritual potency occasioned by state-sponsored resettlement

Topics: DS Asia, BL Religion, GN Anthropology
Publisher: Routledge
Year: 2009
DOI identifier: 10.1080/00664670903278403
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:26783
Provided by: LSE Research Online

Suggested articles

Citations

  1. (1992). A Catholic mission and the purification of culture: experiences in an Indonesian community.
  2. (1999). Animism’ revisited: Personhood, environment and relational epistemology. doi
  3. (1998). Beneath the volcano: Religion, cosmology and spirit classification among the Nage of eastern Indonesia. doi
  4. (2006). Between empowerment and power: The rise of the self-supporting church in western Flores, doi
  5. (2004). Catechizing culture: Missionaries, Aymara and the ‘new evangelization’. doi
  6. (2007). Catholics in Indonesia, 1808-1942: A documented history. Volume 2, The spectacular growth of a self-confident minority, doi
  7. (2007). Christian moderns: Freedom and fetish in the mission encounter. Berkeley: doi
  8. (1997). Christianity and traditional religion among the Hoga Sara of WestCentral Flores.
  9. (2003). Constraint and freedom in Icelandic conversions. In The anthropology of religious conversion, edited by A. Buckser
  10. (1993). Contracting colonialism: translation and Christian conversion in Tagalog society under early Spanish rule. doi
  11. (1985). Culture as art: from practice to spectacle in Indonesia. doi
  12. (1995). Do rocks listen? The cultural politics of apprehending Australian Aboriginal labor. doi
  13. (2006). Dusty signs and roots of faith: The limits of Christian meaning in highland Bolivia. In The limits of meaning: case studies in the anthropology of Christianity,
  14. (1951). Het hoogste wezen bij de Manggaraiers (‘The supreme being among the Manggarai’). Wien-Mödling: Drukkerij van het Missiehuis St.
  15. (1987). Indonesian religions in transition. Tucson: doi
  16. (2006). Introduction: The anthropology of Christianity. In The anthropology of Christianity, doi
  17. (2001). Landscape and commerce: creating contexts for the exercise of power. In Contested landscapes: movement, exile and place,
  18. (2003). Muslims through discourse: Religion and ritual in Gayo society. doi
  19. (2003). Networking the nomadic landscape: Place, power and decision making in Northern Mongolia.
  20. (2007). Of gods and monsters: Indigenous sea cosmologies, promiscuous geographies and the depths of local sovereignty. In A world of water: Rain, rivers, and seas in Southeast Asian histories, edited by doi
  21. (2001). Recontextualizing tradition: ‘Religion’, ‘state’ and ‘tradition’ as coexisting modes of sociality among the northern Lio of Indonesia. In Locating cultural creativity, edited by
  22. (2006). Rethinking the animate, re-animating thought. doi
  23. (1998). Seeing like a state: How certain schemes to improve the human condition have failed. New Haven: doi
  24. (1994). Syncretism/ Anti-Syncretism: The politics of religious synthesis. doi
  25. (2007). The gift in the animal: The ontology of hunting and human-animal sociality. doi
  26. (2000). The perception of the environment: Essays in livelihood, dwelling and skill. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.