Culture Contact and Revitalization Movements:Some Lecture Notes
When one society (to be called the "host") becomes overwhelmed by the influences of another society (called the "guest," though not likely an "invited" guest by the host), with such influences being any one or combination of the following: a. military conquest, b. forced religious missionary conversion, c. technological and economic expansion, d. political, economic, and/or religious oppression, and/or e. imposition of modernity, one response by the host society could be a "revitalization movement."
Any revitalization movement ultimately seeks to maintain a degree of religious, cultural, economic, and/or political sovereignty. To accomplish this goal the core values of the host society could be altered in significant ways, in effect, creating a new society.
A revitalization movement is defined as a "deliberate, organized attempt by some members of a society to construct a more satisfying culture by rapid acceptance of a pattern of multiple innovations" (Wallace 1970:188).
Steps 1 - 5 outline the processes through which a once sovereign group or society moves from a normal, "steady state," through a period of societal and personal stress, followed by societal collapse, and then revitalization and new steady state.
Steady State: the group if marked by cultural vitality and stasis; aspirations of the members of the group are rendered accessible and are generally met.
Period of Increased Societal and Personal Stress: fluctuation of steady state, tensions arise, aspirations challenged by a religious, political and/or economic authority.
Period of Relative and/or Absolute Cultural Deprivation: the group's socio-economic, political and religious institutions collapse; cultural and personal aspirations are unobtainable and unfulfilled; personal and societal dysfunction result along with the creation of institutional deviance marked be criminal behavior.
Period of Revitalization: If a movement is going to succeed, the prerequisites for success include:
formulate a new cultural code and utopian ideals, i.e., a new "dream" as well as the means to realize the dream. In terms of a religious revitalization, the new dream is often the result of a "prophetic revelation" of a charismatic individual, in which there is the hope for a return to an already held utopian dream, or perhaps a reformulate a new utopian dream all together.
communicate new code: the dream needs to be communicated, often characterized by evangelistic zeal, with promises of immediate or future benefits and rewards, and if there is refusal to accept the new code, spiritual and/or material peril result (you are either with us or against us)
organization: the organization of the movement is typically "triadic and charismatic": 1. the charismatic formulator, who granted authoritarian privilege by his followers. As a visionary, he typically has little organizational skills; 2. the disciples who follow the formulator and organize the revitalization movement; administer programs; protect the formulator; interpret his/her message to the people; combat heresy; pragmatic; and 3. the converts, the followers, "true believers."
adaptation and societal transformation: if the movement is to succeed in the long run, it must be adaptive and adjust to internal order and external resistance, including the ability to:
clarify, modify, and redefine the goals and the means, which could include adding doctrinal components not derived from the formulator, but by the disciples themselves;
communicate the code and dream to the society, usually evangelistic zeal, which necessarily includes obtaining and securing the prevailing communication networks and power bases, i.e., economic, military, religious sanctioning;
obtain converts with promises of benefits and threats of peril if refuse to accept;
institute moral sanctioning of conversion, subversion and possibly violence to obtain ultimate societal goals, i.e., mobilize people in a "holy war" or revolution.
routinization: charismatic leader deified by his disciples, but he is also replaced by organizational administrators and a bureaucratic structure that now seek the status quo and resist change, both external and internal; the revitalization movement has gone from "a cult to a church," from "radicals to a government."
New Steady State: newly formed spiritual, economic and/or political culture and stasis with aspirations rendered accessible to people; deviance and dysfunction greatly reduced
American Indian examples: Handsome Lake Religion of the Seneca Indians (a successful attempt), Ghost Dance Religion of the Plains Indians (a failed attempt), the Native American Church or Peyote Religion (successful)
Political examples: American Revolution, Communist Revolutions in Russia, China and Cuba
Religious examples: Melanesian Cargo Cults, Christianity, Islam, Protestant Reformation.
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