Thursday, November 14, 2019
Title: Mysticism, reality, and dynamism in Australian Aboriginal religions
Abstract: Depictions of the religious ideologies of Australian Aboriginal peoples have been influential in the history of Anthropology, and have been employed by anthropologists, archaeologists, environmental scientists and historical linguists to model the operation of social life and the longevity of belief systems. Images of a timeless Dreamtime, the ‘other when’ of Stanner, have shaped a century of theorizing about Aboriginal religion, but this depiction of the religious system largely reflects the colonial context in which anthropologists worked and has been overturned in recent decades by several important reinterpretations of the evidence on Aboriginal cosmology. In this talk I synthesise these new understandings and present a model of Aboriginal mythology that seems capable of explaining regional differences in myth and the dynamism of the corpus of myth. Implications for the function and adaptive significance of myth are explored.