Abstract: This paper addresses the academic conversation on Protestant missions to the Indigenous peoples of coastal British Columbia during the second half of the nine- teenth century through a consideration of the role of revivalist piety in the conversion of some of the better known Indigenous Methodist evangelists identified in the scholarly literature. The paper introduces the work of existing scholars critically illuminating the reasons (religious convergence and/or the want of symbolic and material resources) typically given for Indigenous, namely, Ts’msyen, conversion. It also introduces Methodist revivalist piety and its instantiation in British Columbia. And, finally, it offers a critical exploration of revivalist piety and its role in conversion as set within a broader theoretical inquiry into the academic study of ritual and religion.
Excerpt: Our purpose in this chapter is not to argue over translations, however. As more than a century of scholarship has shown, isolating the word mana to search for a context-free meaning is not a productive enterprise, and there is an obvious danger in what Michael Lempert (2010: 394) has called ‘word prospecting’—pulling terms out of context and treating them as emblems, or fetishising them. There is significant variability in how mana is used in different contexts within a society, between societies, and over time—and the larger point is that terms in language never precisely map onto concepts, practices, or effects. We focus, rather, on the ways that mana has become an object of analysis by indigenous Fijian Methodist theologians. In the first half of this chapter, we examine mana’s association with speech and with the term sau, a word with which mana is often paired and sometimes contrasted. In the second half, we turn to Fijian Methodist theologians’ analyses of mana as well as sau, especially as they compare the authority and effectiveness of church leaders with that of hereditary chiefs. Ultimately, we aim to rethink Fijian mana as something which is not necessarily miraculous, but is instead a poetic expression used to articulate and evaluate models of divine and human speech.
Abstract: Among the related but distinct ideas that comprise contemporary American individualism is the ethic of self-realization, the belief that each person has the moral duty to develop their own characteristic talents and potentialities. Here I argue that although the intellectual sources of this belief are well-understood, we have little knowledge of how this idea became an ethic, how it acquired the emotional force of a moral directive. I suggest that this development can be explained in part by exploring the history of the Wesleyan doctrine of Sanctification, the conviction that the Christian believer can achieve a state of perfection. In the 19th century, debates erupted over whether Sanctification—originally an ecstatic experience occurring in revivals—could also take place as a gradual process, the development of Christian character. By the early 20th century, broader cultural forces conditioned a theological shift whereby Sanctification was increasingly understood in liberal thought as realization of the divinity that dwells within each individual soul. Along this path, Sanctification progressively permeated certain routines of daily life. This history provides an example of gradual transformation within Christianity, an example that can help to refine understandings of the processes of continuity and discontinuity that have been central to discussion in the Anthropology of Christianity.
Abstract: Although the academic research on religion in Fiji and the South Pacific is substantial, there are few examples of studies that connect religion with the larger discourses of Fijian tradition and social life. Even fewer are the ones linking culturally specific notions of gender performances to Christian devotion. By utilizing the theoretical framework of colonial mimicry,1
I argue that the Christianization of Fiji, particularly its continued impact on the social organization of modern Fijian society, has been reliant upon its collusion with premodern Fijian notions of gender, power and consanguinity. Based on historical enquiries and ethnographic material, I develop the argument that while conversion may be understood as the conscious adoption and mimicking of the western notion of religion as presented by Wesleyan misGeir Henning Presterudstuensionaries in the 1800s, the Fijian understanding of their Christianity, the merging between Christian belief and Fijian social protocol and the consequent development of culturally specific articulations of Christian devotion have produced substantial differences from western theological practice and teaching. A central distinction is the close link between performances of masculinity and Christian devotion found among Fijian Methodists.
Abstract: The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard offers two concepts that can strengthen anthropological analyses of Christianity. The first is “repetition,“ or the act of “recollecting forward,“ which provides a model of transformation that depends neither on deep continuity nor on decisive break. The second is “absurdity,“ the faithful but painful acceptance of paradox as irreducible to logical resolution, which challenges eudemonic understandings of Christianity as a religion oriented toward comfort and satisfaction. I demonstrate the usefulness of Kierkegaard’s concepts through an analysis of indigenous Fijian Methodists‘ interest in repeatedly engaging with curses from ancestors as a way to overcome them.