Posts Tagged ‘Papua New Guinea’

Macdonald, “Always Been Christian”

March 18, 2014

Fraser Macdonald. 2014.. ‘Always been Christian’: Mythic Conflation among the Oksapmin of Papua New Guinea, Anthropological Forum: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Comparative Sociology, DOI: 10.1080/00664677.2014.886997. Early Online Publication.

Abstract:  Across the world and throughout history, people have negotiated religious and social change by marshalling the mythological resources at their disposal. In cases of conversion to Christianity, this dynamic has often taken the form of constructing an isomorphism between traditional mythical narratives and those learned from the Bible, a manifestation of the process I here call ‘mythic conflation’. In this article I explore how the Oksapmin of the West Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea, have conflated aspects of Bible stories with two of their traditional narratives in an attempt to overcome cosmological contradiction. From the etic perspective, this has partially collapsed difference in the construction of syncretic religious forms. From the emic perspective, by constructing for themselves an ancestral precedent of this kind, the Oksapmin support a claim of having revealed the mystery of Christianity’s local origin.

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Stornig, “Sisters Crossing Boundaries”

October 8, 2013

Stornig, Katharina.  2013.  Sisters Crossing Boundaries: German Missionary Nuns in Colonial Togo and New Guinea, 1897–1960.  Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Publisher’s Description: The last third of the 19th century witnessed a considerable increase in the active participation of women in the various Christian missions. Katharina Stornig focusses onthe Catholic case, and particularly explores the activities and experiences of German missionary nuns, the so-called Servants of the Holy Spirit,in colonial Togo and New Guinea in the late 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Introducing the nuns’ ambiguous roles as travelers, evangelists, believers, domestic workers, farmers, teachers, and nurses, Stornig highlights the ways in which these women shaped and were shaped by the missionary encounter and how they affected colonial societies more generally. Privileging the sources produced by nuns (i.e. letters, chronicles and reports) and emphasizing their activities, Sisters Crossing Boundaries profoundly challenges the frequent depiction of women and particularly nuns as the largely passive observers of the missionizing and colonizing activities of men. Stornig does not stop at adding women to the existing historical narrative of mission in Togo and New Guinea, but presents the hopes and strategies that German nuns related to the imagination and practice of empire. She also discusses the effects of boundary-crossing, both real and imagined, in the context of religion, gender and race.

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.

Schram, “One mind: Enacting the Christian congregation among the Auhelawa”

April 13, 2013

Scrham, Ryan. 2013. One mind: Enacting the Christian congregation among the Auhelawa, Papua New Guinea. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 24(1):30-47.

Abstract: This article examines the relationship between Christian worship and the production of religious identity among Auhelawa speakers of Normanby Island, Papua New Guinea. Auhelawa people live in a society in which a locally developed form of Christianity has emerged from a long engagement with missionaries. In the colonial era, missionaries spoke in terms of light and darkness to mediate their contradictory aims of both authentic personal conversion and total social change. Today Auhelawa believe that their society has been changed, and that this change entails a new way of thinking as well as acting, though like the missionaries they also struggle to express the relationship between the two. Viewing themselves as already converted, Auhelawa today use an ideology of ‘one mind’—unity in purpose which is subjectively felt and outwardly expressed—to resolve how their collective worship relates to individual belief. This framing of ritual, embedded in church prayer and music, however, is always incomplete. I argue this not only points to an important step in the process of formation of congregations, but also suggests why Christianity globally is both unitary yet also so strikingly diverse.

Hoenigman, “A Battle of Languages”

January 4, 2013

Hoenigman, Darja.  2012.  A battle of languages: Spirit possession and changing linguistic ideologies in a Sepik society, Papua New Guinea.  The Australian Journal of Anthropology 23(3): 290–317.

Abstract: In October 2009, a dramatic event shook the existing sociolinguistic setting in Kanjimei village in East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea. Possessed by a Christian spirit, a woman harshly reproached the most important village leaders. The ensuing verbal fight between ‘the spirit’ and the village prayer leader became a battle of languages: the Christian spirit spoke the community’s native language, Awiakay, overpowering those in authority, who are the most frequent users of the national lingua franca Tok Pisin. As it was believed that it was the spirit of the Virgin Mary who channelled herself through the possessed woman, it was legitimate for people to discuss her words. The spirit possession thus enabled the otherwise condemned social practices: gossip and public criticism, which have the power of changing existing power relations in the village. The analysis of this event shows the complexity behind the ever-changing linguistic ideologies.

Webb, “Palang Conformity and Fulset Freedom: Encountering Pentecostalism’s ‘Sensational’ Liturgical Forms in the Postmissionary Church in Lae, Papua New Guinea”

January 2, 2013

Webb, Michael. 2011. “Palang Conformity and Fulset Freedom: Encountering Pentecostalism’s ‘Sensational’ Liturgical Forms in the Postmissionary Church in Lae, Papua New Guinea.” Ethnomusicology 55(3):445-472.

Excerpt: In this article I take up Meyer’s recent call to scholars of Christianity: “global Christianity requires attention to aesthetics, understood in the broad sense” (2010:759). I concentrate on the shift in Lutheran worship music practices apparent in congregations in the vicinity of Lae, toward what might be considered a Melanesian Pentecostal or “sanctified” aesthetic (see Scandrett-Leatherman 2008; Yong 2010:175–81, 205–10). Meyer’s (2010) notion of “sensational forms” informs my approach. These are Pentecostal worship practices that are both ap- pealing to the senses and spectacular, and through which participants “sense the presence of the Holy Spirit with and in their bodies” (Meyer 2010:742; emphases in original). Sensational forms, Meyer explains, are “an excellent point of entry into processes of religious transformation” (ibid.:751). More specifically, I con- tribute to the ethnomusicological study of global Christianities by examining the local formation and social and cultural persuasiveness of one of Pentecostalism’s key sensational forms, its liturgy of “praise and worship” (Meyer 2010:751).

Following a description of the field setting and research scope, and a discussion of terminology, I provide a historical sketch of the musical activities and processes that have contributed to the formation of this Lutheran social imaginary in Morobe Province, this local dawning in Papua New Guinea of a new, Lutheran, Christian understanding of the world. Fast-forwarding, I report the emergence of new forms of local Christian musical expression around the time of national political independence in the mid 1970s, produced both in the context of the then-nascent popular music industry in Papua New Guinea, and as a result of encounters around the country with Pentecostal Christianity. Papua New Guineans were certainly attracted by Pentecostalism’s “enchanted theology of creation and culture” (Smith 2010a:39–41) and saw a vision of a new Christian imaginary in Charismatic revivalism and its musical liturgies.

Against this background, drawing on my recent fieldwork among Lutheran and Pentecostal congregations in and near Lae, I consider how, in Morobe Province, new Pentecostal praise and worship music might be understood as “a performative religious critique” (Smith 2010b:688). The gravitation toward Pentecostalized liturgies, I suggest, indicates—among other things—an increaseing dissatisfaction with the kind of temporality aesthetics that have come to govern the Lutheran imaginary, particularly as encoded within its hymnody. I frame the shift in worldview that has been underway from the mission era to the postmissionary church in terms of the transition, desired and/or actual, from acoustic guitar-accompanied to electric band-accompanied liturgy.5 For reasons including its ability to carve out a sonic space, bodily enliven worship, and create worship flow, many Lutheran congregations are, not without resistance from various directions, embracing amplified rock-based church music as the preferred musico-liturgical mode. The acoustic guitar, now pejoratively referred to as palang (Tok Pisin,6 plank or board), is being superseded by electric band worship known as fulset (PNG English,7 full set—of rock band instruments). The contrast in languages as “vessels of meaning” here is noteworthy, with Tok Pisin a local-national language and (localized) English a national/global language. Through interviews with church administrators, leaders, and musicians; discussion of repertoires; and analysis of exemplary praise and worship songs in liturgical performance, as well as field observations, I probe ways in which a new “ecumenical” imaginary is being formed.

Robbins, “Why is There No Political Theology among the Urapmin”

December 3, 2012

Robbins, Joel. 2012. Why is There No Political Theology among the Urapmin?: On Diarchy, Sects as Big as Society, and the Diversity of Pentecostal Politics. In Christian Politics in Oceania, eds. Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall. London: Berghahn Books.

Barker, “Anthropology and the Politics of Christianity”

December 3, 2012

Barker, John. 2012. Anthropology and the Politics of Christianity in Papua New Guinea. In Christian Politics in Oceania, eds. Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall. London: Berghahn Books.

Handman, “Mediating Denominational Disputes”

December 3, 2012

Handman, Courtney. 2012. Mediating Denominational Disputes: Land Claims and the Sound of Christian Critique in the Waria Valley, Papua New Guinea. In Christian Politics in Oceania, eds. Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall. London: Berghahn Books.

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.

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