Peacemaking Rituals in the Context of Natural Disaster

A Study of the Cultural Appropriation of Potentially Dangerous Spaces in Nusa Tenggara, Flores, Eastern Indonesia

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
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  • 1 Freie Universität Berlin

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This article is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Indonesia and will raise questions about the meaning that cultures ascribe to potentially dangerous natural spaces. By tracing the mythological and ritual life of the local clans of the Lamaholot and Ngada people, one can note that the entire cosmology and belief system of the people of Flores is tightly interwoven with the religious perception of space and place. Volcanoes play a key role in this belief system because the different clans see volcanoes as places of origin, though they also have a practical social function This article emphasizes the importance of volcanoes for individual and clan identity, and their function in the ideology of association and spiritual linkage between people, ancestors, and natural features. It furthermore examines the phenomenon of public confessions of guilt. These coincide with local interpretations of natural catastrophes as a result of the failure to respect local social values and norms and to fulfil religious duties. Consequently, the article argues, the idea of a dualism between humans and nature becomes irrelevant. Within this context, their reciprocal relationship with volcanoes enables clan groups in Flores to reconcile the unpredictability of nature with the dangerous and sometimes violent aspects of society.

  • 8

    Bird-David (1999) provides an overview of the debate about this controversial and outdated term. Further discussion of the term “animism” is beyond the scope of this article.

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