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In: Handbook of Indigenous Religion(s)

A decade ago, Bribris, an indigenous community in Costa Rica, used to operate with a distinction between “indigenous traditions” and “religions.” More recently, some of them have begun to talk about an “indigenous religion.” This article is about uses of the category “religion” and especially new uses of a globalizing concept of “indigenous religion.” Some of the consequences of the shift in discourse are also discussed. The main point made is this: the adoption and adaptation of a concept of “indigenous religion” enable some Bribris to defend better some of their interests, but it also contributes to an increased influx of foreign ideas, practices, and bodies to previously more sheltered domains of Talamancan society. It testifies to new creativity and new transactions in the struggles for control of identities, activities, and territories, but it also alters the balance between local and trans-local dynamics.

In: Numen

Abstract

Today the most common uses of “indigenous religion(s)” as an analytical category and as a class in the study of religions are intimately linked to discourses on “indigenous peoples.” The article argues that this often creates problems for critical scholarship. It contributes to the reproduction of stereotypes about particular kinds of religions among particular kinds of peoples; it nurtures ideas about religious similarities across vast spans of time and space; and it blurs boundaries between scholarship and politics and religionising. A different analytical use of “indigenous religion(s)” that sometimes proves more rewarding is identified in some historical and anthropological case studies, where the category is employed contextually as a relational concept, as the opposite of “foreign religion(s),” and not restricted to indigenous peoples. To counter the biases produced by the current primacy of one taxonomic scheme, it is necessary to engage a greater variety of ways and orders of classification.

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
In: Religious Categories and the Construction of the Indigenous
In: Numen