Aboriginal Religions in Australia

The upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion includes a review by Diane Bell (University of Adelaide) of the book Aboriginal Religions in Australia: An Anthology of Recent Writings, edited by Max Charlesworth, Francoise Dussart, and Howard Morphy (Ashgate, 2005).

Bell notes that the contributors to this volumes are ‘predominantly non-Indigenous anthropologists and well-established ones at that’. However, not a few new strands in the study of Aboriginal religion are unrepresented in the book. Bell states that she ‘would like to see more about the intertwining of new age beliefs and practices, eco-tourism, new religious movements, and the emergence of distinctive Aboriginal theologies—some of which have a strong social justice core and others of a decidedly evangelical nature’.

Bell identifies Fiona Magowan’s essay ‘Faith and Fear in Aboriginal Christianity’ (pp. 279–295) as ‘an excellent account of the Yolngu from Galiwin’ku in northeast Arnhem Land, and Ian McIntosh’s ‘Islam and Australia’s Aborigines’ (pp. 297–318), also on the Yolgnu, as ‘a fine example of how outside influences can be absorbed’, but she says we also need to hear from people in rural and urban settings. Bell, who lives in the Ngarrindjeri territory in the southeast of Australia, would have liked to see more teasing out of how Aboriginal religion practiced in the inner cities,’ in the more densely settled south’. ‘What role, for instance, do mainstream churches, evangelical, and fundamentalist religions play in the lives of disaffected youth?’

No anthology – by definition – can possibly traverse any given field fully. Bell criticises this anthology with being ‘too vast’. She concludes: ‘Choices must be made. In my view, the choices made regarding the“recent writings” for this anthology give priority to old concerns. There is much that is new and challenging for scholars of religion, much that is relevant as to how we live our lives in the twenty-first century. The potential audiences for writing on religion are wide ranging. This anthology was an opportunity to address readers beyond the academy. Instead the editors have stayed very much within the lines’.

You can read the whole review here.

Comments welcome here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.