Dr. Roger Ivar Lohmann
Associate Professor of Anthropology
55 Thornton Road South
Oshawa, Ontario L1J 5Y1, Canada
Office: Room 182 Lab: Room 183
Telephone: 905-435-5100 ext. 5043
I am an anthropologist specializing in the study of religion, dreaming, and cultural change. One of my enduring interests is people's evidential motives for supernatural beliefs, including how dreaming and the imagination interact with sensory perception in systems of knowledge. Along the way, I have explored various other phenomena, including empathy, morality, causes of war and peace, the biographical history of anthropology, culture's nature and media, human ecology, haunting phenomena, and most recently, imaginary people believed to be real.
I am deeply interested both in pure and applied anthropological theory and methods. Anthropology's holism, integrating biological, archaeological, cultural, and linguistic approaches and data, is one of the discipline's greatest strengths, and I ground my particular studies, as well as my teaching, in general anthropology's broad point of reference for maximum power.
I have conducted ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork among the Asabano people of Duranmin, Sandaun Province, Papua New Guinea in 1991, 1994-1995, 2005, and 2007 (at the right, I'm sitting with Sablaio in 2005).
The Asabano live at Duranmin in the interior of New Guinea, which lies in the South Pacific to the north of Australia (to the left, Belok is dressed in traditional finery, ready to perform at a drum dance in 2005). New Guinea is a vast equatorial land of contrasts. Sandy beaches, mangrove inlets, and grassy fields rise from the sparkling turquoise ocean. In parts of the interior, giant rivers meander through huge steaming swamps, while farther inland majestic mountains are carpeted with rainforests, grasslands, and in a few places even snow. Papua New Guinea, comprising the eastern half of New Guinea and surrounding islands, is home to hundreds of small societies and a remarkable diversity of cultures and languages.
The Asabano are a thoroughly land-based people. Living in their remote rainforests, tucked amid rugged mountains and stony, rushing rivers, before their first contact with an Australian government patrol in 1963, they did not know of the ocean's existence. Nevertheless, seashells were the preferred male dress and a valuable exchange item. The Asabano and their trading partners believed that a tree spirit had created shells for people to use.
Cutting temporary gardens from the forest, the Asabano plant sweet potatoes, taro, sugar cane, greens, and other crops, supplementing this diet by raising pigs and hunting wild animals such as cassowaries and marsupials. Their traditional life was punctuated by frequent warfare with other groups. Traditional religious practices and complex food taboos were designed to ensure a steady supply of nourishment and success in war. But Asabano culture has undergone dramatic change since government, commercial, and missionary contacts accelerated after the 1960s.
While living in Yakob Village in 1994-1995 (the photo to the left was taken in 1995), I collected elders' memories of their traditional beliefs and practices, such as the keeping of ancestors' bones in sacred houses. Only men were allowed inside these structures, where boys underwent ordeals of initiation and learned secret religious knowledge. I also researched the mass conversion of the Asabano to Christianity during a charismatic "revival" movement, when the sacred houses were burned to the ground and the men's secrets were revealed to the women.
Interestingly, dreams played a strong role in Asabano religious life before contact with the globalized culture of the West, during their conversion, and up to the time of my fieldwork. Many Asabano consider dreams to be a source of useful information and a powerful form of evidence that the forest is full of spirits, as their ancestors said, and that Jesus exists, as the missionaries later told them. In light of these findings, I have suggested that we can better understand religious beliefs and what makes them convincing by taking into account how dream, trance, and alert experiences interact to produce a vision of reality that is supplemented by products of culturally informed imaginations.
Much of my time in the field was spent sitting and talking with people, often with laptop computer in hand (as pictured with Muluasi to the right in 1995) to write down their tales of such things as cannibal witches, burnt offerings presented to ancestral skulls, and sightings of the Holy Spirit in the form of a cassowary. My presence resulted in a new word being coined in the local Asaba language: kombiudabu (computer). One day, when I asked a man whether he believed in the spirits of Asabano traditional religion, he asked me, "Does your kombiudabu know if they exist?" My computer and other electric research tools, such as a video camera, sound recorder, and lights were all powered by small solar (photovoltaic) panels. They produced plentiful energy--enough to spare for my short-wave radio, which provided welcome news in my own language.
There are neither electric power lines nor vehicle roads leading to Duranmin. Their small airstrip is only occasionally visited by small missionary planes. I flew in for the first time on such a plane, the only passenger, sitting beside the pilot as we swooped between the mountains to make a landing on the grass covered airstrip. The only other way in or out is to walk several days through rugged mountain rain-forests to the nearest government post at Telefomin.
The Asabano have enthusiastically accepted Western technologies, including everything from matches and manufactured salt to woven cloth, canned foods, radios, airplanes, and of course Christian prayer. They were very pleased to have steel knives and axes to replace stone adzes, with which they cleared forest for their swidden gardens; however, they continue to use bamboo knives for butchering meat because they are very sharp and readily available. Traditional dress was already out of fashion by 1995 (pictured to the left), except for celebrations, when they sing, drum, and dance from sunset to sunrise.
Edited Volume 2003 Dream travelers: sleep experiences and culture in the Western Pacific. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Guest-Edited Special Journal Issues
Ending war and sustaining peace in Pacific societies / Mettre fin a la guerre et assurer la paix dans les societes du Pacifique. Thematic section, Anthropologica 56(2). 2010
Creations: imagination and innovation. Special issue, Anthropological Forum 20(3). Abstract and Contents
Biographies of anthropologists. Special issue, Reviews in Anthropology 37(2-3).
Gendering religious objects. Special issue, Material Religion 3(1).
2003 Perspectives on the category 'supernatural'. Special issue, Anthropological Forum 13(2).
Dissertation 2000 Cultural reception in the contact and conversion history of the Asabano of Papua New Guinea. PhD dissertation, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Journal Articles 2018 Fiction in fact: Ernest Callenbach's Ecotopia and the creation of a green culture with anthropological ingredients. Anthropology and Humanism 43(2):255-267, doi:10.1111/anhu.12217.
Investigating the causes of peace to end war: an introduction / Introduction: interroger les causes de la paix pour mettre fin a la guerre. Anthropologica 56(2):255-267.
A cultural mechanism to sustain peace: how the Asabano made and ended war. Anthropologica 56(2):285-300. 2013
Sleep, dreaming, and the imagination: psychosocial adaptations to an ever-changing world. Reviews in Anthropology 42(2):56-84. [co-authored by Roger Ivar Lohmann and Shayne A. P. Dahl] 2010
How evaluating dreams makes history: Asabano examples. History and Anthropology 21(3):227-249. 2010
In the company of things left behind: Asabano mementos. Anthropological Forum 20(3):291-303. 2010
Introduction: the anthropology of creations. Anthropological Forum 20(3):215-234.
Dreams of Fortune: Reo Fortune's psychological theory of cultural ambivalence. Pacific Studies 32(2-3):273-298.
Introduction: biographies of anthropologists as anthropological data. Reviews in Anthropology 37(2-3):89-101.
Introduction: objects, gender, and religion. Material Religion 3(1):4-13. [co-authored by Roger Ivar Lohmann and Susan Starr Sered] 2007
Sound of a woman: drums, gender, and myth among the Asabano of Papua New Guinea. Material Religion 3(1):88-109.
Souvenirs des morts: technologies de gestion de la memoire dans un village de Nouvelle-Guinee [Mementos of the dead: technologies of memory management in a New Guinea village]. Journal de la Societe des Oceanistes 124(1):45-58.
The afterlife of Asabano corpses: relationships with the deceased in Papua New Guinea. Ethnology 44(2):189-206.
2004 Sex and sensibility: Margaret Mead's descriptive and rhetorical ethnography. Reviews in Anthropology 33(2):111-130. 2003 Glass men and Spirit women in Papua New Guinea. Cultural Survival Quarterly 27(2):53-54.
2003 Introduction: naming the ineffable. Anthropological Forum 13(2):117-124. 2003 The supernatural is everywhere: defining qualities of religion in Melanesia and beyond. Anthropological Forum 13(2):175-185. 2001 Introduced writing and Christianity: differential access to religious knowledge among the Asabano. Ethnology 40(2):93-111. 2000 The role of dreams in religious enculturation among the Asabano of Papua New Guinea. Ethos 28(1):75-102.
Chapters in Edited Volumes
Capitalism meets its match: failed mimesis of market economics among the Asabano of Papua New Guinea. In Mimesis and Pacific transcultural encounters: in time, in trade, and in ritual reconfigurations. Jeannette Mageo and Elfriede Hermann, eds. Pp. 164-185. New York: Berghahn.
Cultural contingency and the varieties of lucid dreaming. In Lucid dreaming: new perspectives on consciousness in Sleep, vol. 2: Religion, creativity, and culture. Ryan Hurd and Kelly Bulkeley, eds. Pp. 23-43. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. [co-authored by Roger Ivar Lohmann and Shayne A. P. Dahl] 2013
Sleeping among the Asabano: surprises in intimacy and sociality at the margins of consciousness. In Sleep around the world: anthropological perspectives. Katie Glaskin and Richard Chenhall, eds. Pp. 21-44. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2012
Religion. In Polynesian outliers: the state of the art. Richard Feinberg and Richard Scaglion, eds. Pp. 187-216. Ethnology Monograph Series, no. 21. Pittsburgh, PA: Ethnology Monographs. [co-authored by Richard Feinberg, Judith Macdonald, and Roger Ivar Lohmann]. 2011
Empathetic perception and imagination among the Asabano: lessons for anthropology. In The anthropology of empathy: experiencing the lives of others in Pacific societies. Douglas W. Hollan and C. Jason Throop, eds. Pp. 95-116. New York: Berghahn. 2010
Boiled eggs with chicks inside, or what commensality means. In Adventures in eating: anthropological experiences of dining from around the world. Helen R. Haines and Clare A. Sammells, eds. Pp. 21-42. Boulder: University Press of Colorado. 2008
Sexual snakes strike again: immortality expressed and explained in a New Guinea myth. In Sexual snakes, winged maidens and sky gods: myth in the Pacific, an essay in cultural transparency. Serge Dunis, ed. Pp. 113-125. Noumea, New Caledonia: Le Rocher-a-la-voile and Papeete: Editions Haere Po Tahiti.
Dreams and ethnography. In The new science of dreaming, vol 3: Cultural and theoretical perspectives. Deirdre Barrett and Patrick McNamara, eds. Pp. 35-69. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Morals and missionary positionality: Diyos of Duranmin. In The anthropology of morality in Melanesia and beyond. John Barker, ed. Pp. 131-147. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Press. 2003 Turning the belly: insights on religious conversion from New Guinea gut feelings. In The anthropology of religious conversion. Andrew Buckser and Stephen Glazier, eds. Pp. 109-121. Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield.
2003 Dream travels and anthropology. In Dream travelers: sleep experiences and culture in the Western Pacific. Roger Ivar Lohmann, ed. Pp. 1-17. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
2003 Supernatural encounters of the Asabano in two traditions and three states of consciousness. In Dream travelers: sleep experiences and culture in the Western Pacific. Roger Ivar Lohmann, ed. Pp. 188-210. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ground stone adze production in Central New Guinea [interview with Salowa Hetalele]. In Archaeological approaches to technology, by Heather Margaret-Louise Miller. Pp. 62-64. Amsterdam: Academic Press.
Articles Reprinted in Readers / Textbooks
The supernatural is everywhere: defining qualities of religion in Melanesia and beyond. In Taking sides: clashing views in anthropology. 5th edition. Robert L. Welsch and Kirk M. Endicott, eds. Pp. 310-317. Dubuque: McGraw Hill. [Orig. 2003, Abridged and reprinted from Anthropological Forum 13(2):175-185].
The supernatural is everywhere: defining qualities of religion in Melanesia and beyond. In Taking sides: clashing views in anthropology. 4th edition. Kirk M. Endicott and Robert Welsch, eds. Pp. 229-236. Dubuque: McGraw Hill. [Orig. 2003. Abridged and reprinted from Anthropological Forum 13(2):175-185] 2006 The supernatural is everywhere: defining qualities of religion in Melanesia and beyond. In Taking sides: clashing views in cultural anthropology. 2nd edition. Kirk M. Endicott and Robert Welsch, eds. Pp. 131-138. Dubuque: McGraw Hill. [Orig. 2003. Abridged and reprinted from Anthropological Forum 13(2):175-185]
2001 The role of dreams in religious enculturation among the Asabano of Papua New Guinea. In Dreams: a reader on religious, cultural, and psychological dimensions of dreaming. Kelly Bulkeley, ed. Pp. 111-132. New York: Palgrave. [Orig. 2000. Reprinted from Ethos 28(1):75-102]
Encyclopedia Entries 2012
Anthropology and dreams. In Encyclopedia of sleep and dreams, vol. 1. Deirdre Barrett and Patrick McNamara, eds. Pp. 42-43. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishers. 2006
Field methods In Encyclopedia of anthropology. H. James Birx, ed. Pp. 962-968. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Reference.
2005 Culture In Encyclopedia of religion, 2nd edition. Lindsay Jones, ed. Pp. 2086-2090. New York: Macmillan Reference.
2004 Dreams and shamanism--Papua New Guinea In Shamanism: an encyclopedia of world beliefs, practices and culture. Mariko Namba Walter and Eva Jane Neumann Fridman, eds. Pp. 865-869. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Book Reviews 2018 Review of Yabar: the alienations of Murik men in a Papua New Guinea modernity, by David Lipset. Anthropos 113(2):747-749.
Review of The shark warrior of Alewai: a phenomenology of Melanesian identity, by Deborah Van Heekeren. Pacific Affairs 88(4)973-975.
Review of Mary, the devil, and taro: Catholicism and women's work in a Micronesian society, by Juliana Flinn. Anthropological Forum 21(3):336-338. 2011
Review of Looking through ancestors' eye-holes: epistemic body-mind-spirit and discourse formations among the Lau'um of West Sepik, Papua New Guinea, by Paschal Yolwo Ebiwe Tumai Ounau Wia Waisi. Pacific Affairs 84(3):617-618. 2009
Review of Reflexive ethnography: a guide to researching selves and others, by Charlotte Aull Davies. Anthropological Forum 19(1):109-111.
Review of Pathways to heaven: contesting mainline and fundamentalist Christianity in Papua New Guinea, by Holger Jebens. Anthropological Forum 17(1):94-97.
Review of Selected readings in the anthropology of religion, edited by Stephen D. Glazier and Charles A. Flowerday. Anthropology of Consciousness 18(1):107-113. 2006
Review of Yali's question: sugar, culture, and history, by Frederick Errington and Deborah Gewertz. Anthropological Quarterly 79(4):755-761.
Review of Cargo, cult, and culture critique, edited by Holger Jebens. Journal of the Polynesian Society 115(2):191-193.
Review of Women as unseen characters: male ritual in Papua New Guinea, edited by Pascale Bonnemere. Anthropological Forum 16(2):191-193.
Moral conflict and cultural change: review of Becoming sinners: Christianity and moral torment in a Papua New Guinea society, by Joel Robbins. Anthropology and Humanism 31(1):99-100. 2004
Review of Dream trackers: Yapa art and knowledge of the Australian desert, by Barbara Glowczewski (CD-ROM). Anthropology of Consciousness 15(2):69-70.
2002 Review of Humors and substances: ideas of the body in New Guinea, by Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern, with contributions by Ien Courtens and Dianne van Oosterhout. Journal of Anthropological Research 58(2):301-303.
2001 Review of Emplaced myth: space, narrative and knowledge in Aboriginal Australia and Papua New Guinea, edited by Alan Rumsey and James F. Weiner. Pacific Affairs 74(3):466-467.
2001 Review of An introduction to the anthropology of Melanesia: culture and tradition, by Paul Sillitoe. Pacific Studies 24(1/2):131-134.
1996 Review of Payback: the logic of retribution in Melanesian religions, by G. W. Trompf. American Anthropologist 98(3):682-683. 1991 Review of Persuasions of the witch's craft, by T. M. Luhrmann. American Ethnologist 18(3):605-606.
Winter 2019: On Sabbatical
Courses for Fall, 2019
ANTH 1001H: General Anthropology
ANTH 3333H: Ecological Anthropology
Courses for Winter, 2020
ANTH 2311H: Anthropology of Language
ANTH 3160H: Peoples of Pacific Oceania
ANTH 3270H: Anthropology of Religion
I apply what I have learned from my studies to improving humanity's engagement with the rest of the world. Here are some of anthropology's central discoveries:
- Humankind is a part of the natural world and other living things on Earth are our biological cousins.
- Humanity's ongoing evolution occurs in interdependence with other species.
- Unchecked economic and population growth and economies that damage the environment lead to ecosystem and civilization collapse.
- We use creativity and cultural variability to adapt to the environment and modify the environment to our goals, in ways that have in recent centuries become increasingly maladaptive, self-destructive, and widespread.
- We can learn from comparing all known cultures--contemporary and past--how to restore and conserve a clean and vibrant planet, how to take the long view and thrive indefinitely, and how to take advantage of principles of cultural dynamics to achieve a stable population and economy.
The Green Party, alone among political parties, places sustainability first and recognizes that economic well-being and health are only achieved by maintaining and enhancing, rather than degrading the ecosystems of which we are a part and upon which we depend.
I actively support the Greens as the only political party whose guiding principles are consistent with anthropology's basic findings.
I helped found and am CEO and President of my local Green Party of Canada and Green Party of Ontario riding associations. I was president of the Green Party of Ontario from 2013-2015 and currently serve on the provincial nomination committee. On campus, I promote Green values, practices, and electoral success through the Trent University Greens.
"The Night I Was Attacked by a Ghost" SAPIENS article, October 28, 2016.
"Taking Control of Our Dreams" Daytime Durham talk show appearance, January 15, 2015.
"Taking Nonviolence Seriously" University of Toronto Press Journals Blog, January 5, 2015.
"Trent Professor Explores How Warriors Become Peacemakers" Trent University Daily News, November 25, 2014.
"How to Irritate, or Engage, Your Prof" Globe and Mail, October 21, 2014.
"Cultural Background Key to Lucid Dreaming: Trent Oshawa Anthropologists" Oshawa This Week, August 10, 2014.
"Trent Anthropologists Discover Cultural Background Is Key to Lucid Dreaming" Trent University Daily News, July 15, 2014.
"Anthropologist Elected Ontario Green Party President" Green Party of Ontario, July 23, 2013.
"Trent University Oshawa Starts an Organic Community Garden" Trent University Daily News, May 24, 2013.
"Cannibal War and Supernatural Peace in the New Guinea Jungle" (video) Public Lecture, Trent University Oshawa, April 10, 2012.
This page last updated December 21, 2018