Cargo Cults, Cultural Creativity, and Autonomous Imagination

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Abstract

This article draws attention to the ways in which Western psychiatric models of psychopathology applied to the so-called "Cargo cults" of Melanesia have served to endorse colonial and cultural discourses of power. It argues that while the ethnographic evidence indicates the positive and creative potential of such movements, Western assumptions concerning irrationality and the unconscious mind obscure this potential. The concept of autonomous imagination is proposed as a way of understanding these movements without pathologizing them.

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