Barker, “The One and the Many”

Barker, John. 2014. The One and the Many: Church-Centered Innovations in a Papua New Guinean Community. Current Anthropology DOI: 10.1086/678291

Abstract: The emerging field of the anthropology of Christianity appears suspended between two poles: a concern with understanding the continuous and relatively coherent traits of the religious tradition as a whole (the “One”), and the documentation of the highly contingent forms found in local communities (the “Many”). This tension, in turn, feeds sometimes intense debates about whether conversion to Christianity along the modern missionary frontier is best understood as rupture from or continuity with indigenous cultural forms and understandings. While such binaries have been highly productive, they are still misleading, because many if not most Christians do not experience the religion in such terms but rather largely in the context of institutionalized rituals, dogmas, and church organizations. I illustrate this point by examining the ways the Maisin people of Papua New Guinea have both adjusted and adapted to Anglicanism over the past century through three modes I describe as “accommodations,” “repurposings,” and “spandrels.” Studying such institutional configurations, I suggest, provides anthropologists a strategic point to consider local versions of Christianity as both One and Many.

Barker, “The Enigma of Christian Conversion”

Barker, John. 2012. The Enigma of Christian Conversion: Exchange and the Emergence of New Great Men among the Maisin of New Guinea. In The Scope of Anthropology: Maurice Godelier’s Work in Context, edited by Laurent Dousset and Serge Cherkezoff, 46-66. London: Berghahn.