Cargo Cults

cargo cult

cargo cult, native religious movement found in Melanesia and New Guinea, holding that at the millennium the spirits of the dead will return and bring with them cargoes of modern goods for distribution among its adherents. The cult had its beginnings in the 19th cent. and received great impetus from World War II, when the Western armed forces littered the islands with surplus cargo. The cult aims to restore a past time and to regain the goodwill of ancestors who are being lured into giving cargo to the white foreigners, cargo originally intended for the native Melanesians. Cargo cults are revivalistic, in that the adherents expect the restoration of a golden age in which they will be reunited with their ancestors, and nativistic (see nativism), in that the whites are to be driven away. However, as the cargo is composed principally of European goods, and native goods and rituals are abandoned, both the nativistic and revivalistic aspects of cargo cults are qualified by a strong motive toward acculturation.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Cargo Cults and Discursive Madness
Dalton, Doug.
Oceania, Vol. 70, No. 4, June 2000
Cargo Cult Horror
Lindstrom, Lamont.
Oceania, Vol. 70, No. 4, June 2000
Our Very Own Cargo Cult
Wagner, Roy.
Oceania, Vol. 70, No. 4, June 2000
Inside the Cult: Religious Innovation and Transmission in Papua New Guinea
Harvey Whitehouse.
Clarendon Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of cargo cults in multiple chapters
Cargoism in Irian Jaya Today
Giay, Benny; Godschalk, Jan A.
Oceania, Vol. 63, No. 4, June 1993
Occidentalism: Images of the West
James G. Carrier.
Clarendon Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Cargoism" begins on p. 36
Magic and the Millennium: A Sociological Study of Religious Movements of Protest among Tribal and Third-World Peoples
Bryan R. Wilson.
Harper & Row, 1973
Telephones, Cameras and Technology in West New Britain Cargo Cults
Lattas, Andrew.
Oceania, Vol. 70, No. 4, June 2000
The Apotheosis of White Men?: A Reexamination of Beliefs about Europeans as Ancestral Spirits
Leavitt, Stephen C.
Oceania, Vol. 70, No. 4, June 2000
Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Desire among the Urapmin of Papua New Guinea
Robbins, Joel.
Ethnology, Vol. 37, No. 4, Fall 1998
The Sky Came Down: Social Movements and Personhood in Mekeo Society
Bergendorff, Steen.
Oceania, Vol. 69, No. 2, December 1998
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