Let us begin by immediately refuting the Cargo cult
idea with reference to the syncretic movements which preceded Nagriamel (cf.
However, they do not really add to the rich material already recorded over several decades, even if for some of these movements, such as in Tanna (Vanuatu), very strong millenarian revivals and Cargo cults
reminiscences could actually be observed through recent fieldwork (cf my own film, Alors vint John Frum : une tragedie des Mers du Sud, 2005 CREDO, and also my forthcoming book: Une pirogue pour le Paradis: le culte de John Frum a Tanna, Paris: CNRS Ed/MSH ; cf also for a PNG example Andrew Lattas, Cultures of Secrecy: Reinventing Race in Bush Kaliai Cargo Cults
, Madison: U.
Hysteria, Anthropological Discourse and the Concept of the Unconscious: Cargo Cults
and the Scientisation of Race and Colonial Power.
well known for its many sensational(ized) cargo cults
Skin, Personhood, and Redemption: The Doubled Self in West New Britain Cargo Cults
By 'cultic,' I am referring to the vast literature on so-called cargo cults
in Melanesia (Worsley 1957; Burridge 1960; Lawrence 1964; Williams 1976; Lattas 1998, to list a few).
I suppose that the inherent 'weirdness' of 'cargo cults
' and their 'strange imperviousness' to Western rationalistic argument causes Western discourse about cargo cults
to 'go mad' by continually multiplying explanations which are not entirely consistent.
Anthropological analyses of cargo cults
offer certain plots alongside ethnographic detail.
To put it bluntly, have Western administrators and anthropologists built thei r views of cargo cults
around their own fantasies of being made into gods or spirits by Melanesian locals?
I want to argue that modern technology's bridging of the distance between the seen and the unseen was transformed by cargo cults
into their own familiar forms of revelation and truth.
I then consider the idea of cultural madness, characterize the general 'going mad' of cargo cult
discourse, and apply a method of reading the 'going mad' of cargo cult
discourse to a key text in the history of anthropological thinking about cargo cults
-- one which I greatly admire -- that of Peter Worsley (1968).
We know more about world events than the people caught up in them, or at least seem to, and know more about UFOs and New Guinea cargo cults
than the people inside them do.
Although social movements are not my specialty, I did know something about cargo cults
, and I wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to offer such a course on the eve of the millennium.
In 1956, when I wrote The Trumpet Shall Sound, there was not a single book-length analysis of cargo cults
by a professional anthropologist available.
When necessary, he also draws intelligently but sparingly on theories that help to illuminate other Dani social phenomena, such as bigman leadership and cargo cults