A cargo cult is a belief une pirogue pour le Paradis : Le culte de John Frum à Tanna (Vanuatu) PDF among members of a relatively undeveloped society in which adherents practice superstitious rituals hoping to bring modern goods supplied by a more technologically advanced society. Cargo cults often develop during a combination of crises.
Ce livre retrace les grandes étapes d’une forte poussée de fièvre millénariste dans l’île de Tanna (République de Vanuatu), lieu de naissance à la fin des années 1930 du culte de John Frum, l’un des plus célèbres cultes du Cargo mélanésiens. À l’occasion d’une catastrophe naturelle en l’an 2000, les craintes eschatologiques liées au passage du troisième millénaire, ont contribué à déclencher une série d’événements dramatiques, survenant au cours même de l’enquête de terrain. Replaçant dans un tableau historique d’ensemble l’héritage culturel que représente ce mouvement politico-religieux pour ses adeptes, l’auteur souligne l’intérêt du culte de John Frum pour notre compréhension des processus culturels d’adaptation aux réalités complexes et changeantes de la modernité. L’analyse de ce revivalisme millénariste l’amène à contester les anciens schémas anthropologiques qui assimilaient les cultes du Cargo à d’éphémères réactions à la domination coloniale. La remarquable persistance et l’incessant renouvellement des croyances en John Frum démontrent au contraire la capacité de leurs inspirateurs à pérenniser culturellement une quête identitaire et spirituelle des plus originales.
Marc Tabani est chargé de recherche au CNRS, rattaché au centre de Recherche et de documentation sur l’Océanie (CREDO) à Marseille. Depuis 1993, il mène des recherches de terrain à Vanuatu et tout particulièrement dans l’île méridionale de Tanna.
Under conditions of social stress, such a movement may form under the leadership of a charismatic figure. Contact with colonizing groups brought about a considerable transformation in the way indigenous peoples of Melanesia have thought about other societies. Since the late twentieth century, alternative theories have arisen. For example, some scholars, such as Kaplan and Lindstrom, focus on Europeans’ characterization of these movements as a fascination with manufactured goods and what such a focus says about Western commodity fetishism. Since the modern manufacturing process is unknown to them, members, leaders, and prophets of the cults maintain that the manufactured goods of the non-native culture have been created by spiritual means, such as through their deities and ancestors. These goods are intended for the local indigenous people, but the foreigners have unfairly gained control of these objects through malice or mistake.
Notable examples of cargo cult activity include the setting up of mock airstrips, airports, airplanes, offices, and dining rooms, as well as the fetishization and attempted construction of Western goods, such as radios made of coconuts and straw. The term cargo cult was first used in print in 1945 by Norris Mervyn Bird, repeating a derogatory description used by planters and businessmen in the Australian Territory of Papua. The term was later adopted by anthropologists, and applied retroactively to movements in a much earlier era. Discussions of cargo cults usually begin with a series of movements that occurred in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The earliest recorded cargo cult was the Tuka Movement that began in Fiji in 1885 at the height of British colonial plantation era. The movement began with a promised return to a golden age of ancestral potency. Cargo cults occurred periodically in many parts of the island of New Guinea, including the Taro Cult in northern Papua New Guinea and the Vailala Madness that arose from 1919 to 1922.
The most widely known period of cargo cult activity occurred among the Melanesian islanders in the years during and after World War II. A small population of indigenous peoples observed, often directly in front of their dwellings, the largest war ever fought by technologically advanced nations. The Japanese arrived first with a great deal of supplies. Manufactured clothing, medicine, canned food, tents, weapons and other goods arrived in vast quantities for the soldiers, who often shared some of it with the islanders who were their guides and hosts. The John Frum cult, one of the most widely reported and longest-lived, formed on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. This movement started before the war, and became a cargo cult afterwards.
With the end of the war, the military abandoned the airbases and stopped dropping cargo. In response, charismatic individuals developed cults among remote Melanesian populations that promised to bestow on their followers deliveries of food, arms, Jeeps, etc. The cult leaders explained that the cargo would be gifts from their own ancestors, or other sources, as had occurred with the outsider armies. In a form of sympathetic magic, many built life-size replicas of airplanes out of straw and cut new military-style landing strips out of the jungle, hoping to attract more airplanes. The cult members thought that the foreigners had some special connection to the deities and ancestors of the natives, who were the only beings powerful enough to produce such riches. Cargo cults were typically created by individual leaders, or big men in the Melanesian culture, and it is not at all clear if these leaders were sincere, or were simply running scams on gullible populations.
The leaders typically held cult rituals well away from established towns and colonial authorities, thus making reliable information about these practices very difficult to acquire. Over the last sixty-five years, most cargo cults have disappeared. The Prince Philip Movement on the island of Tanna, which worships Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Wallace conceptualized the « Tuka movement » as a revitalization movement. Peter Lawrence was able to add greater historical depth to the study of cargo cults, and observed the striking continuity in the indigenous value systems from pre-cult times to the time of his study. More recent work has debated the suitability of the term cargo cult arguing that it does not refer to an identifiable empirical reality, and that the emphasis on « cargo » says more about Western ideological bias than it does about the movements concerned. Lamont Lindstrom takes this analysis one step further through his examination of « cargoism », the discourse of the West about cargo cults.
His analysis is concerned with Western fascination with the phenomenon in both academic and popular writing. New Heaven, New Earth: A study of Millenarian Activities. Cargo Cult: Strange Stories of desire from Melanesia and beyond. Contemporary Pacific Societies: Studies in Development and Change.