Barker, John and Anna-Karina Hermkens. 2016. The Mothers’ Union goes on strike: Women, tapa cloth and Christianity in a Papua New Guinea society. The Australian Journal of Anthropology. Early online publication.
Abstract: This paper explores the story of the formation and subsequent activities of a church women’s group in Maisin villages and women’s experiences of Christianity more broadly, in relation to the changing production and uses of traditional bark cloth (tapa), a signature women’s product which has become a marker of Maisin identity. While the influence of the local Mothers’ Union has waxed and waned over the past 60 years, tapa cloth has had a continuing influence upon its fortunes. Tapa cloth has been the chief means for church women to raise funds to support their activities and the local church. However, we argue that, more fundamentally, tapa has shaped women’s gendered Christian identities, experiences and history, mediating relationships with men, between generations of women, and with various sorts of ‘missionaries’ who have often justified their intrusions in terms of improving women’s lives.
Hermkens, Anna-Karina. 2015. Marian Movements and Secessionist Warfare in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Nova Religio 18(4): 35-54.
Abstract: This article focuses on the enigma of Catholic Marian revolutionary movements during the decade-long conflict on the island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea at the end of the twentieth century. These religious movements embody the legacy of a colonial history as well as people’s responses to poorly monitored resource extraction, social and economic displacement, regional factionalism, and years of fighting by Bougainvilleans against the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. At the same time, the movements’ popularity throve on leaders’ reputations for their religious knowledge and their mobilization of people based on religious faith. During the conflict Bougainville came to be seen by many residents as holy land (Me’ekamui). According to Francis Ona’s Marian Mercy Mission and Peter Kira’s Our Lady of Mercy movements, the covenant land of Bougainville had to be safeguarded from Satan, represented by Papua New Guinea and an Australian copper mining company, in the freedom struggle conceived as a Marian holy war.
Hermkens, Anna-Karina (2012) “Circulating Matters of Belief: Engendering Marian Movements during the Bougainville Crisis” in Lenore Manderson, Wendy Smith, & Matt Tomlinson (eds) Flows of Faith: Religious Reach and Community in Asia and the Pacific (Springer, New York).
Abstract: This chapter focuses on the circulation and appropriation of transnational Marian objects and beliefs during the Bougainville conflict (1989-1999). I show how circulation drove the formation of new religious movements, and how ritual elements were appropriated into secessionist protests and practices of resistance, as well as in local peace efforts. By following these paths of circulation, the fluidity of religious beliefs across boundaries of nation state and community come to the fore, providing insight into how the appropriation of religious objects informs both nationalism and communitas.