Conversion as Colonization: Pagan Reconstructionism and Ethnopsychiatry


  • Anne Ferlat Independent scholar



European Native Faiths, Indigenous Studies, Paganism


The present study examines contemporary Pagan movements which, situated on a spectrum with native faiths (“reconstructionist movements”) and universalist groups, exemplify two philosophical and religious trends: universalism and indigenism. Through forms of crosscultural psychology, sometimes called “ethnopsychiatry,” I compare contemporary Paganism to the colonization of indigenous populations through the development of acculturation models and the analysis of the benefit of reclaiming one’s own culture. I analyze from a sociological perspective what their native faiths bring to members of Pagan reconstructionist movements in societies which have endured different waves of acculturation. I argue that after modernity, liquid modernity or postmodernity, transmodernity is at the core debate in our multicultural societies, in particular, in Europe where the discussions about identity are virulent and show a disorientation of a continent and political institutions, which oscillate between multiculturalism and federalist/separatist viewpoints. In such a context, native faiths might inspire political and cultural projects as Europe is seeking and searching for common denominators.

Author Biography

Anne Ferlat, Independent scholar

An independent scholar in France, Anne Ferlat received her MPhil from the University of the West of England in 2009.


Aitamurto, Kaarina. “Russian Paganism and the Issue of Nationalism: A Case Study of the Circle of Pagan Tradition.” The Pomegranate 8, no. 2 (2006): 184–210.

Asprem, Egil. “Heathens Up North: Politics, Polemics, and Contemporary Norse Paganism in Norway.” The Pomegranate 10, no. 1 (2008): 41–69.

Audet, Jean, and Jean-François Katz. Précis de Victimologie Générale. Paris: Dunod, 1999.

Alfred, Taiaiake, and Alfred Corntassel. “Being Indigenous: Resurgences Against Contemporary Colonialism.” Government and Opposition: An International Journal of Comparative Politics 40, no. 4 (2005): 597–614.

Baudrillard, Jean. The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. London: Sage, 1998.

Baumann, Zyngmunt. Consuming Life. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007.

——. Intimation of Postmodernity. London: Routledge, 1992.

——. Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000.

Beckford, James. “Religion and Power.” In Religion: Contemporary Issues, edited by Bryan Wilson, 11–24. London: Bellew Publishing, 1992.

Berger, Helen A., and Douglas Ezzy. “Becoming a Witch: Changing paths of conversion in contemporary Witchcraft.” In The New Generation Witches: Teenage Witchcraft in Contemporary Culture, edited by Peg Aloi and Anna E. Johnson, 41–55, Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007.

——. Teenage Witches: Magical Youth and the Search for the Self. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

Berry, John W. “Immigration, Acculturation, Adaptation.” Applied Psychology 47 (1997): 5–68.

Berry, John W., and D.L. Sam. “Acculturation and Adaptation.” In Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology, edited by John W. Berry, Marshall H. Segall, and Ciqdem Kaqitcbasi, 291–326. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1997.

——. Cambridge Handbook of Acculturation Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Brinkmann, Svens. “Qualitative Research between Craftsmanship and McDonaldization: A Keynote Address from the 17th Qualitative Health Research Conference.” Qualitative Studies 3, no. 1 (2011): 56–68.

Bryman, Alan. The Disneyization of Society. London: Sage, 2004.

Burke, Peter. Cultural Hybridity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009.

Campbell, Colin. “The Cult, the Cultic Milieu, and Secularization.” In The Cultic Milieu: Oppositional Subcultures in an Age of Globalization, edited by Jeffrey Kaplan and Hélène Lööw, 12–25. Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press, 2002.

Carrer, Philippe. Ethnopsychiatrie en Bretagne, Nouvelles études. Spezet: Coop Breizh, 2007.

——. Le Matriarcat Psychologique des Bretons. Paris: Payot, 1983.

Christ, Carol P. “Toward a Paradigm Shift in the Academy and in Religious Studies.” In The Impact of Feminist Research in the Academy, edited by Christie Farnham, 53–76. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

Chun, Kevin M., Pamela Balls Organista and Geraldo Marin. Acculturation, Advances in Theory, Measurement, and Applied Research. Washington: American Psychological Association, 2002.

Cheung-Blunden, Violet L., and Linan P. Juang. “Expanding Acculturation Theory: Are Acculturation Models and the Adaptiveness Of Acculturation Strategies Generalizable in a Colonial Context?” International Journal of Behavioral Development 32, no. 1 (2008): 21–33.

Cohen, Maurice J. “Collective Dissonance and the Transition to Post-Consumerism.” Futures 52 (2013): 42–51.

Corvusrouge, “Reflections from Base Camp.” A Corvid’s Viewpoint, 12 March 2014.

Descola, Philippe. Par-delà Nature et Culture. Paris: Gallimard, 2005.

Devereux, Georges. Ethnopsychanalyse Complémentariste. Paris: Flammarion, 1972.

——. Mohave Ethnopsychiatry: The Psychic Disturbances of an Indian Tribe. Washington: Smithonian Institution, 1969.

——. Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian. New York: New York University Press, 1969.

Ferlat, Anne. “Pagan Movements in Russia: Postmodern Invention or Return to Tradition: A Comparison with Western Movements.” MPhil diss., University of the West of England, 2009.

Gordon, Milton M. Assimilation in American Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964.

Gorski, Philip, David Kim Kyuman, John Torpey and Jonathan Van Antwerpen. The Post-Secular in Question. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

Habermas, Jürgen. “Secularism’s Crisis of Faith: Notes on Post-Secular Society.” New Perspectives Quarterly 25 (2008): 1–24.

Hammond, Phillip, and David Machacek. Soka Gakkai in America: Accommodation and Conversion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Harris, Adrian. “The Wisdom of the Body: Embodied Knowing in Eco-Paganism.” PhD diss., University of Winchester, 2008.

Herskovits, Melville J., Ralph Linton, and Robert Redfield, “Memorandum for the Study of Acculturation.” American Anthropologist 38 (1936): 149–52.

Hutnik, Nimmi. “Patterns of Ethnic Minority Identification and Modes of Social Adaptation.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 9, no. 2 (1986): 151–66.

Idris, Isam. “Le Religieux en Clinique.” In Manuel de Psychiatrie Transculturelle, edited by Marie Rose Moro, Quitterie de la Noë, and Yoram Mouchenik, 249–63. Paris: La Pensée Sauvage, 2006.

Ivakhiv, Adrian. “Nature and Ethnicity in East European Paganism: An Environmental Ethic of the Religious Right?” The Pomegranate 7, no. 2 (2005): 1–31.

Jaspal, Rusi, and Marco Cinirella. “The Construction of Ethnic Identity: Insights from Identity Process Theory.” Ethnicities 12, no. 5 (2012): 503–30.

KJAT, SSO. Officialnoe Zajavlenjie “O podmenax ponjiatii v Jazyke i Istorii Slavjan I Opsevdojazy?estve (Official declaration “About False Understanding of Slavic History and Language,” December 25, 2009).

——. Informacionnoe Pis’mo “Soveta Trëx” Slavjianskix Jazy?eskix Obedinjenii v Svjaziii s videovystupleniem lidera RO SPB V. Kuropvskovo (Newsletter of the “Council of Three” of the Slavic Pagan Association related to the broadcast of the leader of RO SRV V. Kurovskij), December 2013. = 838.

Kwok-Bun, Chan, Jan W. Walls, and David Hayward. East-West Identities, Globalization, Localization, and Hybridization. Leyden: Brill, 2007.

Kvernmo, Siv. “Indigenous People.” In Cambridge Handbook of Acculturation Psychology, edited by John W. Berry and David L. Sam, 233–45. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Laplantine, François. Ethnopsychiatrie Psychanalytique. Paris: Beauchesne, 2007.

Lasch, Christopher. La Culture du Narcissisme: la Vie Américaine à un Age de Déclin des Espérances. Paris: Flammarion, 2008 [1979].

Liebkind, Karmela. “Ethnic Identity and Acculturation.” In Cambridge Handbook of Acculturation Psychology, edited by John W. Berry and David L. Sam, 78–96. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Maffesoli, Michel. Notes sur la Postmodernité: le Lieu Fait Lien. Paris: Le Félin Kiron, 2003.

——. Le Rythme de la Vie, Variations sur les Sensibilités Postmodernes. Paris: La Table Ronde, 2004.

——. Le Temps des Tribus, Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1991.

Marty, Martin E. Modern American Religion, Volume 1: The Irony of it All, 1893–1919. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

Mauren, Arnfinn. “Siste Stopp før Valhall” (Asatru burial ground). Aftenposten, May 14, 2009.

Moro, Marie Rose, and Isabelle Réal. “La Consultation Transculturelle d’Avicenne.” In Manuel de Psychiatrie Transculturelle, edited by Marie Rose Moro, Quitterie de la Noë, and Yoram Mouchenik, 217–38, Paris: La Pensée Sauvage, 2006.

Nathan, Tobie. Nous ne Sommes pas Seuls au Monde: Les Enjeux de l’Ethnopsychiatrie, Essai d’Ecologie des Invisibles Non-Humains. Paris: Les Empêcheurs de Penser en Rond, 2001.

——. Psychanalyse Païenne, Essais Ethnopsychanalytiques, Paris: Odile Jacob, 1995.

Nicolescu, Basarab. Qu’est-ce que la Réalité? Montréal: Liber Canada, 2009.

Owen, Suzanne. “Druidry and the Definition of Indigenous Religion.” In Critical Reflections on Indigenous Religions, edited by James L. Cox, 81–93. Farnham: Ashgate: 2013.

Pont-Humbert, Catherine, and Hamid Salmi. Ethnopsychiatrie, Cultures et Thérapies, Paris: Vuibert, 2004.

Raulin, Anne. “Une Ecole de New-York ?” In Manuel de Psychiatrie Transculturelle, edited by Marie Rose Moro, Quitterie de la Noë, and Yoram Mouchenik, 65–78. Paris: La Pensée Sauvage, 2006.

Robbins, Thomas. Cults, Converts and Charisma: The Sociology of New Religious Movements. London: Sage Publications, 1988.

Sale, Kirkpatrick. Dwellers in the Land: The Bioregional Vision. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 2000 [1985].

Shnirelman, Victor. “Ancestral Wisdom and Ethnic Nationalism: A View from Eastern Europe.” The Pomegranate 9, no. 1 (2007): 41–61.

Schwartz, Seth J., Jennifer B. Unger Byron, L. Zamboanga, and José Szapocznik. “Rethinking the Concept of a=Acculturation.” American Psychology. 65, no. 4 (2010): 237–51.

Shupe, Anson. Six Perspectives on New Religions, a Case Study Approach. New York: Edwin Millen Press, 1982.

Stark, Rodney, and Williams Sims Bainbridge. “Of Churches, Sects, and Cults: Preliminary Concepts for a Theory of Religious Movements.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 18, no. 2 (1979): 117–33.

Stengers, Isabelle. “Préface.” Nous ne sommes pas seuls au Monde: Les Enjeux de l’Ethnopsychiatrie, Essai d’Ecologie des Invisibles Non-Humains, edited by Tobie Nathan, 2–40. Paris: Les Empêcheurs de Penser en Rond, 2001.

Strmiska, Michael F. “Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspective.” In Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Michael F. Strmiska, 153. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio, 2005.

Schjødt, Jens Peter. “Reflections on Some Problems in Dealing with Indigenous Religions of the Past: the Case of Pre-Christian Scandinavian Religion.” In Critical Reflections on Indigenous Religions, edited by James L. Cox, 29–49. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013.

Shupe, Anson. Six Perspectives on New Religions: A Case Study Approach. New York: Edwin Millen Press, 1982.

Tönnies, Ferdinand. Community and Civil Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Trimble, Joseph E.M., and Pamela Jumper Turman. “Ethnocultural Considerations and Strategies for Providing Services to Native American Indians.” In Counseling across Cultures, 5th edition, edited by Paul Pedersen, 53–91. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2002.

Uichol, Kim, Yang Kuo-Sho and HwangKwang-Kuo. Indigenous and Cultural Psychology: Understanding People in Context. New York: Springer, 2006.

Verkuyten, Maykel. The Social Psychology of Ethnic Identity. Hove, UK: Psychology Press, 2005.

Wach, Joachim. Sociology of Religion, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

White, Kenneth. “Texte Inaugural, April 26, 1989.”

Wiench, Pietr. “A Postcolonial Key to understanding Central and Eastern European Neopaganisms.” In Modern Pagan and Native Faith Movements in Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Kaarina Aitamurto and Scott Simpson, 10–26. Durham: Acumen, 2013.

York, Michael. “Defining Paganism.” The Pomegranate 11 (2000): 4–9.

Zagefka, Hanna. “The Concept of Ethnicity in Social Psychological Research: Definitional Issues.” International Journal of Intercultural Relations 33 (2009): 228–41.




How to Cite

Ferlat, A. (2015). Conversion as Colonization: Pagan Reconstructionism and Ethnopsychiatry. Pomegranate, 16(2), 207–238.