Posts Tagged ‘Melanesia’

Robbins, Schieffelin, and Vilaça, “Evangelical Conversion and the Transformation of the Self in Amazonia and Melanesia”

July 23, 2014

Robbins, Joel, Bambi B, Schieffelin, and Aparecida Vilaça. 2014. Evangelical Conversion and the Transformation of the Self in Amazonia and Melanesia: Christianity and the Revival of Anthropological Comparison. Comparative Studies in Society and History 56(3):559–590.

Abstract: The last several decades have seen both a renewed anthropological interest in the possibility of cross-cultural comparison and the rapid rise of the anthropology of Christianity. These two trends should be mutually supportive. One of the promises of the anthropology of Christianity from the outset has been that it will allow people to compare how processes of Christianization have unfolded in different parts of the world and to consider how the resulting Christian configurations are similar to and different from one another. But to this point, relatively little detailed comparative empirical work on Christianity has appeared. Our aim here is to contribute to remedying this situation. Drawing on recent theoretical work on comparison, we set comparative work on Christianity on a new footing. Empirically, we examine how processes of Evangelical Christianization have transformed notions of the self in one Amazonian society (Wari’) and two unrelated societies in Melanesia (Bosavi and Urapmin). We define the self for comparative purposes as composed of ideas of the mind or inner self, the body, and relations between people. In our three cases, Christianization has radically transformed these ideas, emphasizing the inner self and downplaying the importance of the body and of social relations. While our empirical conclusions are not wholly unexpected, the extent to which the details of our three cases speak comparatively to one another, and the extent to which the broad processes of Christian transformation they involve are similar, are surprising and lay a promising foundation for future comparative work in the anthropology of Christianity.

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Van Heekeren, “Why Alewai Village Needed a Church”

March 13, 2014

Van Heekeren, Deborah.  2014.  Why Alewai village needed a church: Some reflections on Christianity, conversion, and male leadership in south-east Papua New Guinea.  The Australian Journal of Anthropology.  Early online publication.

Abstract: In the Vula’a villages of south-east Papua New Guinea, the experience of more than a century of Christianity has been incorporated into local understandings of identity and tradition. Church-building (in both the architectural and ideological sense) is at the centre of village life. Even though it was a general policy of the London Missionary Society to build a church in every village in which conversion was undertaken, they did not build a church in the Vula’a village of Alewai. In 2001 the fact that Alewai did not have a church initiated a chain of events that draws attention to a situation of current relevance for Papua New Guinea, as evangelists no longer work to convert the ‘heathen’ but to convert Christians from one denomination to another. As a case study the article is focused on the pastors and deacons of the United Church and thus also serves to document some of the changes that have occurred in male leadership since the early colonial era.

Robbins, “Beyond the suffering subject”

August 12, 2013

Robbins, Joel. 2013. Beyond the suffering subject: toward an anthropology of the good. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 19(3): 447-462.

Abstract: In the 1980s, anthropology set aside a focus on societies defined as radically ‘other’ to the anthropologists’ own. There was little consensus at the time, however, about who might replace the other as the primary object of anthropological attention. In important respects, I argue, its replacement has been the suffering subject. Tracing this change, I consider how it addressed key problems of the anthropology of the other, but I also suggest that some strengths of earlier work – particularly some of its unique critical capacities – were lost in the transition. The conclusion considers how recent trends in anthropology might coalesce in a further shift, this one toward an anthropology of the good capable of recovering some of the critical force of an earlier anthropology without taking on its weaknesses.

Rio and Eriksen, “Missionaries, Healing, and Sorcery”

May 2, 2013

Rio, Knut and Annelin Eriksen. 2013. Missionaries, Healing, and Sorcery in Melanesia: A Scottish Evangelist in Ambrym Island, Vanuata. History and Anthropology 24(3).

Abstract: Melanesian people have recently become highly occupied with history as an arena for moral scrutiny and causal explanations for contemporary failures. On the island of Ambrym in Vanuatu, this form of ontological worry goes back to the first missionaries on the island, the Murray brothers. This article takes us back to events in the 1880s when the missionaries were active on Ambrym, and searches into their social position. Drawing on the diary of Charles Murray, the main argument unfolds around his involvement in the realm of men’s ritual powers, how he himself played his part as a highly knowledgeable magician and how his downfall came about by challenging a manly realm of knowledge and power and his wider inclusion of women and lesser men in his church.

Barker, “The Enigma of Christian Conversion”

September 22, 2012

Barker, John. 2012. The Enigma of Christian Conversion: Exchange and the Emergence of New Great Men among the Maisin of New Guinea. In The Scope of Anthropology: Maurice Godelier’s Work in Context, edited by Laurent Dousset and Serge Cherkezoff, 46-66. London: Berghahn.

Robbins, “Spirit Women”

June 5, 2012

Robbins, Joel. 2012. Spirit Women, Church Women, and Passenger Women. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):113-133.

Abstract: As anthropologists increasingly study Christianity in Melanesia, data has become available which allow us to address comparative questions about its differential impact in various societies of the region. In this article, I look at how conversion to Christianity has transformed women’s roles in one society in Papua New Guinea and one in Vanuatu. In particular, I examine what Christian values have meant for the construction of new gender roles. In addition, I compare changes in women’s roles in these two Christianized societies to the situation in another rapidly changing Papua New Guinea society where Christianization is not a dominant social trend in order to explore how Christianity might be seen to align women with culturally dominant values in ways other kinds of cultural change do not. In the course of the article, I also consider what my analysis has to say about the value of comparing Christian societies across the Melanesian region for the broader project of theorizing the role of religion in shaping contemporary social transformations in this region and beyond.

Barker, “Secondary Conversion”

June 5, 2012

Barker, John. 2012. Secondary Conversion and the Anthropology of Christianity in Melanesia. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):67-87.

Abstract: Anthropologists have in recent years turned their attention to Christianity in Melanesia. Much of this new work treats Melanesian Christianity in terms of the confrontation between indigenous “tradition” and global “modernity”. However useful for long-term analysis, such dualistic framing distorts our understanding of the present, which is instead characterized by growing sectarianism and secondary conversions. I call for three changes in the ways anthropologists typically approach contemporary Melanesian Christianity. First, we need to understand secondary conversion primarily in historical terms, as a shift from localized forms of Christianity to newly introduced ones. Second, more attention needs to be paid to the lively forms of Christianity emerging in urban areas. Finally, I suggest that the domination of anthropology in the social science of Melanesia creates its own distorting lens and other disciplinary viewpoints should be encouraged and incorporated.

Farhadian, “Introducing World Christianity”

December 4, 2011

Farhadian, Charles E.  (2012) Introducing World Christianity. Madden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Publisher’s Description: This interdisciplinary introduction offers students a truly global overview of the worldwide spread and impact of Christianity. It is enriched throughout by detailed historic and ethnographic material, showing how broad themes within Christianity have been adopted and adapted by Christian denominations within each major region of the world.

  • Provides a comprehensive overview of the spread and impact of world Christianity
  • Contains studies from every major region of the world, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, the North Atlantic, and Oceania
  • Brings together an international team of contributors from history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as religious studies
  • Examines the significant social, cultural, and political transformations in contemporary societies brought about through the influence of Christianity
  • Takes a non-theological approach, focusing instead on the impact of and response to Christianity
  • Discusses Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox forms of the faith
  • Features useful maps and illustrations
  • Combines broader discussions with detailed regional analysis, creating an invaluable introduction to world Christianity

This is an engaging multidisciplinary introduction to the worldwide spread and impact of Christianity. Bringing together chapters from leading scholars in history, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies, this book examines the major transformations in contemporary societies brought about through the influence of Christianity.

Each chapter shows how the broad themes within Christianity have been adopted and adapted by Christian denominations within each major region of the world. In this way, the book paints a global picture of the impact of Christianity, enriched by detailed historic and ethnographic material for each particular region. Throughout, the chapters examine Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox forms of Christianity. The combination of broader perspectives and deep analysis of particular regions, illuminating the social, cultural, political, and religious features of changes brought about by Christianity, makes this book essential reading for students of world Christianity.

Eves, “Pentecostal dreaming and technologies of governmentality in a Melanesian society”

November 13, 2011

Eves, Richard (2011) “Pentecostal dreaming and technologies of governmentality in a Melanesian society,” American Ethnologist 38(4):758–773

ABSTRACT: Among the Lelet of central New Ireland (Papua New Guinea), a dramatic increase in Pentecostalist fervor has produced significant changes in dreaming. Traditionally, the Lelet have valued dreaming as a means of access to knowledge and power. Now it is seen as a gift bestowed by the Holy Spirit, giving access to new and different forms of knowledge and power. Pentecostalism lays down many rules of conduct for the avoidance of sin, and dreams now play a role in policing them. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s work on governmentality, I find that Lelet dreaming acts as a form of self-scrutiny, reminding dreamers of the need to rectify their failures to follow Pentecostal precepts. Beyond this, dreams enable people to address the dilemmas that emerge when they embrace frameworks that impose radically different ways of being in the world than their previous religion did.

Dundon (ed.), “Negotiating the Horizon – Living Christianity in Melanesia”

October 4, 2011

The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology has published a special collection, “Negotiating the Horizon – Living Christianity in Melanesia,” edited by Alison Dundon and with contributions from: Alison Dundon, Richard Eves, Deborah Van Heekeren, Susan Hemer, Michael Wood, and Holger Jebens.

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