New Proposed Sessions
Informal Session: Imaginary Peoples of the Pacific
This session’s terrific discussions demonstrated that exploring the different meanings and components of “imaginary” and even “people” is an exciting and pressing concern for anthropology. Our challenge is to understand diverse perspectives on these matters, to document their range through comparison, and to explain their causes, nature, and consequences without becoming
lost in claims of “alternative facts.” Those who discuss or interact with imaginary people may regard
them as human creations, or assume them to have independent origins. Assigning imaginary beings something like personhood implies that they are like humans in some ways, but not necessarily all. Between 13 and 16 apparently ordinary people and an unknown number
of menehune and other apparently imaginary people attended the session. Nine participants shared paper plans. These covered a wonderful range, including dwarves and giants from folklore (Chris Ballard), extraterrestrials from fiction (also Chris Ballard), mythical women islanders (Serge Dunis), spirits of deceased people and the Christian god (Christiane Falck), islands supposed to exist between lands and horizons (Wolfgang Kempf and Teweiariki Teaero), Christian angels and deities as colonizers (Roger Lohmann), the conflation of indigenous and exogenous animals, ancestors,
and deities (Fraser Macdonald), and the intracultural diversity of belief and imagination (Adrian Tanner). We intend to proceed to a working session for next year, with all previous participants and two additional ones from the audience (Jake Culbertson and Linz Wilber) planning to contribute papers at next year’s meeting in New Orleans. Additional participants are welcome.
Roger Ivar Lohmann, Trent University