Indigenous rituals re-make the larger than human community

Harvey, Graham (2020). Indigenous rituals re-make the larger than human community. In: Harvey, Graham; Houseman, Michael; Pike, Sarah and Salomonsen, Jone eds. Reassembling Democracy: Ritual as Cultural Resource. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 69–85.



Within the context of the annual Sami organized Riddu Riđđu festival (in western Sapmi/Arctic Norway) and the London-based biennial ORIGINS Festival of First Nations, Indigenous actors, musicians, artists, film-makers, chefs, storytellers and other performers draw on the resources of customary ceremonies and protocols to present work to audiences. Inspired by critical studies of Indigenous literatures, Harvey considers movements between and among international Indigenous performers and their ideas, inspirations, expectations and aspirations. Specific moments in performances and conversations during the festivals are brought into dialogue with notions of personhood that could be summed up as ‘dividualism’ and ‘new animism’. In the former, persons are not points or positions in a structure but inherently and necessarily relations. Beings become persons precisely by engaging and interacting with others. Rather than considering identities, dividual or relational personhood points to the definitive value of performance and interaction. The ‘new animism’ emphasizes that humans are in no way separate from other persons. They do not exist in a distinct environment but are made up of relations involving both human and other-than-human persons, all with needs and fears, some of which conflict with those of others. Indigenous performances draw on customary rites and knowledges which convey a pervasive (and definitively Indigenous) assumption of a larger-than-human community. Reassembling thoughts and practices related to ‘democracy’, in this perspective, necessitates consideration of relations with mountains, rivers, salmon, ancestors, masks and many others. Harvey argues that entertainment and education fuse within these festivals as Indigenous performers seek to inspire ‘world-making’ that is more inclusive and thus more democratic in a more-than-human world.

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