Working Session: Positioning Culture within Pacific Christianities
Organizers: Fraser Macdonald and Christiane Falck
As a religion of secondarity, Christianity invariably comes after a prior religion and culture with which it must sustain a complex evaluative relationship. Within the Anthropology of Christianity, studies of evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic Christianity that conceptualised this relationship in terms of the moralised rejection, abandonment, and diabolisation of indigenous culture have since given way to more nuanced approaches demonstrating how these kinds of Christianity may actually thrive upon the preservation and assimilation of existing cultural traditions. Analysis has consequently yielded theoretical concepts adapted to this new perspective, such as 'ontological preservation' in Melanesia (Robbins 2011), 'resonant rupture' in North America (Marshall 2016), as well as Anderson's recent characterization of African Pentecostalism as 'not an either/or situation' (2018).
This growing awareness by anthropologists of the complex positioning of culture within global evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic Christianity is our departure point for this working session. However, we do not seek to limit our gaze only to Christians from the mentioned traditions but want to deliberately open up this discussion to include the ethno-theologies of Christians from a range of denominational backgrounds, whether evangelical, mainstream Protestant, Catholic, or Neo-Christian. Indeed, we think that the strong ethnographic, theoretical, and disciplinary inclination toward Christians who espouse 'born again' theologies of world breaking has often obscured accounts of cultural positioning by other kinds of Christians. A central objective of this working session, therefore, is to begin to appreciate how the ethno-theological projects of Pacific Christians emerge within, and often transcend, the wide variety of theological frameworks given by the different church groups throughout the region. Within this expanded framework, longstanding debates about cultural continuity and cultural rupture re-emerge but with a fresh theoretical potential. Evangelical, Pentecostal, and charismatic Christians can be thought about as undertaking, whether consciously or unconsciously, projects of cultural reproduction alongside their tendencies for rupture, while Christians with open ended theologies able to comfortably accommodate local ideas and values stand to provide a good counterbalance to narratives of radical change as well as illuminate their own modes of cultural critique.
For this working session, we invite papers that strive to augment the theorisation of how Christians from throughout the Pacific region evaluate their traditional religions. We ask those interested in participating in this session to please send us abstracts of approximately 250 words by 1st November, 2018.
Christiane Falck, University of Goettingen <email@example.com>;
Fraser Macdonald, University of Waikato <firstname.lastname@example.org>