New Session: Objectifying Conflict: Iconoclasm, Christian Nation- alism, and Cultural Preservation in the Pacific
Organizers: Derek Milne and Ryan Schram Friday
February 10, 2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Jasmine 2
In November 2013, Theo Zurenuoc, the National Parlia- mentary Speaker of Papua New Guinea, ordered a carved wooden lintel that adorned the main entrance to the Parliament building removed and destroyed. Six months later, he proposed to dismantle poles of ancestral carvings in the Parliament building rotunda and replace them with a “pillar of national identity and unity” which would ignore PNG’s pre-Christian past and rest on a stone foundation bearing the text “the Word of God.” In August 2015, public calls for local mass burnings as part of “National Repentance Day” appeared in the PNG press and social media. Zurenuoc and others advocating the new Christian nationalist iconoclasm describe the past as a “heathen” time of “cannibalism” and “demon worship.” rejecting the unity-through-diversity ideology of PNG’s early nationalism. However, it is clear that not everyone agrees with this position. Representatives from other denominations including Catholic, Lutheran, and United Methodists spoke out against the removal and destruction of the ancestral objects while representatives of the Office of Tourism, Arts, and Culture, the National Culture Commission, and the PNG National Museum all argued that the desecration was an assault on national heritage. Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and Dr. Andre Moutu filed suit to stop the destruction of the objects. The calls for mass burnings on National Repentance Day went unheeded, while in May 2016 the Waigani National Court found Zurenuoc’s actions unlawful because the objects themselves were “national cultural property.” In spite of these setbacks, Zurenuoc and his supporters continue to push for Christian nationalism and iconoclasm, filing an appeal of the decision in July 2016.
In this informal ASAO session, Zurenuoc’s movement will act as a starting point to discuss many intersecting issues, both in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific generally. We invite scholars working throughout the Pacific to join us to discuss a variety of topics, including:
If you are interested in participating, please send an email to Derek Milne.
Derek Milne, Pasadena City College <email@example.com>, Ryan Schram, University of Sydney <firstname.lastname@example.org>