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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 nativismnativism,
in anthropology, social movement that proclaims the return to power of the natives of a colonized area and the resurgence of native culture, along with the decline of the colonizers.
..... Click the link for more information. ), 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 acculturationacculturation,
culture changes resulting from contact among various societies over time. Contact may have distinct results, such as the borrowing of certain traits by one culture from another, or the relative fusion of separate cultures.
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cargo culta form of MILLENARIAN or MILLENNIAL MOVEMENT widespread in Melanesia in the modern colonial era, in which followers of the CULT seek to achieve the delivery of cargoes of Western consumer goods by means of MAGIC and RITUAL, e.g. the building of‘airstrips’ and models of planes. Such cults involve the combination of Western and native beliefs in a context of ANOMIE and disruption of the local culture, sometimes by successive waves of colonialism. Based on assumptions in the native religion about the supernatural origins of material resources as well as on an inadequate knowledge of the Western culture, when more adequate knowledge became available, these movements have tended to transform into politico-religious movements (see Worsley, The Trumpet Shall Sound, 1968).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000