The Governmateriality of Indigenous Religions

How are instances of indigenous religions and related objects assembled, and what do they do? The GOVMAT project researches materialisations of indigenous religions and their roles in contemporary cosmopolitics.

The project is built on long-term case studies in local communities (in Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, Norway, Peru, Russia, and elsewhere), collective fieldwork at large international events (some of them organised by the United Nations), and collaborative explorations of complex networking (for example through social media, education, politics, art, scholarship, journalism, missionising, and environmentalism).

With the concept of governmateriality, we try to open a new horizon for inquiries into the constitution, recognition, agency, and command of contested bodies, practices, and situations. It allows us to investigate how instances of indigenous religions materalise as acts of governance in struggles over the definition and control of subjects, objects, and environments, and to address the ambivalent effects of these manifestations: Their ability to generate rights and privileges for bodies, practices, and spaces that come across as indigenous and religious, but also the risk of rejection or persecution since there are those who still believe that such bodies, practices, and spaces are primitive and irrational.

Our aim is to provide nuanced descriptions and grounded critical analyses of multifaceted processes. To achieve this, close collaboration between participants from different fields is crucial.

The FRIPRO programme of the Research Council of Norway funds GOVMAT for four years (2020-2024).

GOVMAT is a central part of the activities of the research group INREL at the Department of Archaeology, History, Religious Studies, and Theology and the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education of UiT The Arctic University of Norway.