Indigenous spiritualities

Graham Harvey

in Oxford Textbook of Spirituality in Healthcare

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199571390
Published online August 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199665037 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Textbook in Public Health

Indigenous spiritualities

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This chapter surveys some of the key themes in contemporary indigenous spiritualities that aid an understanding of the broader complexes of indigenous knowledges. It draws on themes and practices from indigenous cultures in most continents, but it insists that indigenous knowledge prioritizes the specific and local over the general and global. This is not to say that indigenous people are trapped by small scale myopia and have nothing to say of international or global import. On the contrary, it is to insist that rootedness and belonging, specificity and emplacement, are key features of the urgent messages offered by many indigenous communities to their neighbours. The key themes focused upon here have been the relational nature of personhood and the world (as community), the centrality of dwelling or emplacement, the necessity of respect among citizens of the larger-than-human community of which human persons are members, and the generative power of gifts and gifting, rituals, and etiquette. Greater understanding of indigenous spirituality requires some odd uses of seemingly familiar terms (such as person as a reference to animals, plants and rocks) and some learning of indigenous terms. Attention to indigenous protocols, including the centrality of ritual and oratory (‘myth-telling’ perhaps) may immediately challenge the norms of dominant Euro-global ‘most-modern’ culture, but promise to enrich the lives of those who make the effort as well as serving the needs of indigenous people in their many and varied circumstances. Much of importance in all these domains is far better represented in the many excellent indigenous novels, plays, films, and cultural performances than in academic, political or legal documents. These convey more fully both the negative (anger and horror) and the positive (humour and passion) of indigenous experiences that inform and erupt into contemporary indigenous spiritualities.

Chapter.  5897 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Palliative Medicine

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