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Durham e-Theses
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A case-study amongst the Enxet of the Paraguayan Chaco

Kidd, Stephen William (1992) A case-study amongst the Enxet of the Paraguayan Chaco. Masters thesis, Durham University.



An explanatory model of religious change in small-scale subsistence societies is developed, in which it is argued that the relative balance of domination between neighbouring societies is a crucial factor in the development of stimuli for religious change. Societies which retain control over their productive resources exhibit relative satisfaction with their well-being and change is usually restricted to diffusion. However, in a colonial situation the well-being of the dominated people is threatened and they enter a crisis. This is characterized by a realization that their ritual practices no longer adequately control the superempirical universe, and by a reduction in their sense of self-worth and prestige. A common response is religious transformation and the resultant conversion movements can be conceived of as active constructions of more satisfying cultures in which attempts are made to re-impose control over the mystical universe and to regain prestige and self- worth. The mechanism used is intercultural sociality: the dominated people look to the colonizers for the secret of their perceived success but the difficulties of intercultural communication result in frequent misinterpretation. The model is used to explain religious change amongst the Enxet Indians of the Paraguayan Chaco. Prior to colonialism, change amongst the Enxet was limited to diffusion. However, post-1885 their land was invaded by the white man, plunging them into a crisis. Two independent conversion movements are examined and successfully explained by reference to the theoretical model. However, a third movement, conversion to Anglicanism, illustrates the influence of culturally-specific factors on the character of a movement. The Enxet, as immediate return hunter- gatherers, viewed the Anglican church as a "foraging resource" and the adoption of Anglicanism by a minority of Enxet was little more than a technique of gaining access to the economic benefits available.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1992
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Dec 2012 12:06

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