Abstract: This article seeks to move beyond the critical politicizing impulse that has characterized anthropologies of development since the 1990s towards a more open-ended commitment to taking seriously the diverse moral and imaginative topographies of development. It explores how members of four small Bidayuh villages affected by a dam-construction and resettlement scheme in Sarawak draw on both historically inflected tropes of gifting and Christian moral understandings in their engagements with Malaysia’s peculiar brand of state-led development. These enable the affected villagers not to resolve the problems posed by Malaysian developmentalism, but to ambiguate them and actually hold resolution at bay. I conclude by considering the implications of such projects of ambiguation for the contemporary anthropology of development.
Publisher’s Description: In recent years, anthropologists have increasingly viewed Christian conversion as a form of rupture from the past. But what happens if the people with whom they work begin to speak a language of continuity and sameness with that past? In this richly contextualized study, Liana Chua explores how a largely Christian Bidayuh community has been reconfiguring its relationship to its old animist rituals through the trope and politics of “culture.” Placing her ethnography in dialogue with developments in the nascent anthropology of Christianity, Chua argues that such efforts at “continuity speaking” are the product not only of Malaysian cultural politics, but also of conversion and Christianity itself. This book invites scholars to rethink the nature and scope of conversion, as well as the multifarious, yet distinctive, forms that Christianity can take.