Indigenous Religions as Minority Religions: Power, Adaptation and Agency

Event Name
Indigenous Religions as Minority Religions: Power, Adaptation and Agency
21 March 2024
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Liverpool City Campus

Address (Room): Level 9, Conference Room 1 (LP-03.9.01)


Dear Colleagues,

The School of Social Sciences, Religion and Society Research proudly presents:

Public Lecture Presented by Professor James L. Cox

Indigenous Religions as Minority Religions: Power, Adaptation and Agency

DATE: 21st March 2024

TIME: 10am - 12pm

VENUE: Western Sydney University - Liverpool Campus

Level 9, Conference Room 1 (LP-03.9.01)

100 Macquarie Street, Liverpool NSW 2170

Biographical Statement

James L. Cox is Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies in the University of Edinburgh and Adjunct Professor in the School of

Social Sciences, Western Sydney University. He has written widely on the phenomenology of religion, particularly as

applied to the study of Indigenous Religions. His most recent books include: The Invention of God in Indigenous Societies

(Routledge 2014); Restoring the Chain of Memory: T.G.H. Strehlow and the Repatriation of Australian Indigenous

Knowledge (Equinox 2018); A Phenomenology of Indigenous Religions: Theory and Practice (Bloomsbury 2022).

Lecture Title

Indigenous Religions as Minority Religions: Power, Adaptation and Agency


Census reports and world religion surveys indicate that the number of adherents to Indigenous Religions globally has

diminished radically over the past century reducing them in many regions to tiny minorities. This could lead to the

conclusion that as their numbers decrease the significance of Indigenous Religions politically, culturally, socially and

economically likewise diminishes. This lecture challenges such an assertion. It begins by defining precisely what is meant by

an Indigenous Religion. This leads to an examination of how Indigenous Religions interact with other seemingly dominant

religions and concludes that commonly practitioners of Indigenous Religions also are affiliated to major world religions like

Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, as well as so-called secular forms of religion. This implies that an Indigenous minority

does not refer exclusively to a numerical indicator, but also can be understood as a relationship of power. This is illustrated

initially by reference to a strategy devised among a select group of Indigenous leaders in Australia, the Rainbow Spirit

Elders, who intentionally transformed the central Christian doctrine of the Incarnation into an ancient and ubiquitous

Indigenous symbol, the rainbow-serpent. A detailed case study drawn from Alaska follows which demonstrates that

Indigenous communities in Alaska continue to respond to the 1971 capitalist land claims settlement imposed by the United

States Government by deliberately integrating the seemingly all-consuming “religious” force of the market economy into

customary patterns of life. The cases of Australia and Alaska show that classifying Indigenous Religions as minorities needs

to be qualified, contextualized and nuanced.

Please register your attendance by clicking on the link below or using the QR code:

Speakers: Professor James L. Cox

Web page:

Name: Professor Adam Possamai

School / Department: School of Social Sciences