The Cargo Cults of Tanna

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On Tanna, a small island in the southern part of the Vanuatu archipelago, devoted believers await the second coming of an American deity who will bring divine gifts in the form of TVs, refrigerators, and Coca-Cola.

They are members of a cargo cult: an anthropological label for a tribal society that engages in religious practices designed to bring them goods — or “cargo” — from more technologically advanced cultures.

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Cargo cults rose to prominence during World War II, when hundreds of thousands of American and Japanese soldiers flooded into the islands of the Pacific region, bringing items that reflected material wealth and industrialization. Seeing mass-produced goods such as candy and radios — and having no concept of manufacturing processes — some island residents believed the goods were divinely created.

When the war ended and the soldiers went home, the cargo disappeared. Cult members believed that goods were being dispatched to them, but being intercepted by Westerners. They responded to the by setting up mock airstrips, airports, and offices, hoping to attract the cargo deliveries they assumed had been diverted to Western places.

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Quoted text by Ella Morton via Slate and Atlas Obscura for the full article. Definitely worth reading.

This entry was posted in Culture, History by Heretic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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