Symposium: Positioning Culture within Pacific Christianities
Organizers: Christiane Falck and Fraser Macdonald
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. 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 our session, therefore, is 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.
In 2019 papers were presented by Kelly Klink, Mark Mosko, Fraser Macdonald, Tomi Bartole, Christiane Falck, Borut Telban, Mike Goldsmith, and Phil Gibbs (in absentia) and discussed by Debra McDougall. We look forward to moving on to a symposium in Hawai’i with the possibility for new participants to join our project that aims at taking a fresh look at ways to theorize religious change in the Pacific. We ask those interested to join us to send us a short abstract (250 words) outlining their ideas by 01.11.2019.
As we intend to move quickly towards publication, accepted contributors will be asked to send us fully developed papers (8000 words) by 20.12.2019. Papers will be distributed shortly after to allow enough time for developing constructive peer-feedback.
Christiane Falck, University of Goettingen <email@example.com>;
Fraser Macdonald, University of Waikato <firstname.lastname@example.org>