McDougall, Debra. 2012. Stealing foreign words, recovering local treasures: Bible translation and vernacular literacy on Ranongga (Solomon Islands). The Australian Journal of Anthropology 23(3): 318–339.
Abstract: In Oceania, which is arguably both the world’s most linguistically diverse region and its most Christian, Bible translation projects are sites where ordinary people pay attention to the kind of ‘interlingual articulations’ that are the focus of this special issue. This article focuses on an ongoing vernacular revival movement that arose from the translation of the New Testament into Luqa, an Austronesian language of Ranongga Island in the Solomon Islands’ Western Province. In 2000, the head translator began running workshops that encouraged native speakers to appreciate the lexical diversity and learn the grammatical structures of their language. In the context of the Bible translation and these language workshops, the vernacular is understood to be, simultaneously, an adequately transparent vehicle for God’s Word and something of value in and of itself. In elevating the status of the vernacular, participants also hope to elevate the status of local territories and communities marginalised in an increasingly English-speaking regional world.
Tomlinson, Matt and Debra McDougall, eds. 2012. Christian Politics in Oceania. London: Berghahn Books.
Publisher’s Description: The phrase “Christian politics” evokes two meanings: political relations between denominations in one direction, and the contributions of Christian churches to debates about the governing of society. The contributors to this volume address Christian politics in both senses and argue that Christianity is always and inevitably political in the Pacific Islands. Drawing on ethnographic and historical research in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji, the authors argue that Christianity and politics have redefined each other in much of Oceania in ways that make the two categories inseparable at any level of analysis. The individual chapters vividly illuminate the ways in which Christian politics operate across a wide scale, from interpersonal relations to national and global interconnections.
Contributors: Matt Tomlinson, Debra McDougall, Courtney Handman, Michael W. Scott, Annelin Erikson, John Barker, Geoffrey White, Joel Robbins, Webb Keane
Ernst, Manfred. 2012. Changing Christianity in Oceania: a regional overview. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):29-45.
Abstract: The article summarizes major changes in religious affiliation in Oceania since World War II and especially over the past 20 years by linking the increasing diversification of Christianity in the region to globalization processes and the impact of rapid social change on societies and individuals. Based on the presentation of data the author provides evidence that new forms of Christianity, mainly of pentecostal-charismatic origins, have experienced high growth rates at the expense of the established historic mainline churches. These developments mirror very much what has been observed in other parts of the southern hemisphere. Predictions are that in two or three decades from today Oceanic Christianity will have a distinguished pentecostal-charismatic flavour. The author predicts that without fundamental reflection and renewal the future perspectives for the historic mainline churches are gloomy. According to the author they seem to be ill prepared to face the manifold challenges in their societies at the beginning of the 21st century and may lose their unique dominant status they held over the past 150-200 years in the respective island nations.
Coleman, Simon. 2012. Christianities in Oceania: Historical Genealogies and Anthropological Insularities. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1): 13-28.
Abstract: I explore the themes contained in this special issue by asking how papers prompt us to ask: What difference does Christianity make—to “culture”, to relations with the state or nation, to the self? This question must be inflected by the realization that Christianity has a long-standing history in Oceania, and has become part of the religio-political landscape that contemporary believers inhabit and sometimes react against. Posing the question also involves an examination of how papers juxtapose versions of history (broader processes of reproduction and transformation over time) with religiously-motivated historiographies (how Christians themselves understand and construct the present in relation to the past). I use these reflections to argue for the usefulness of exploring distinctions and resonances among three orientations towards culture discernible in the papers as a whole: those of being “of”, “against” and “for” culture.
Tomlinson, Matt (2012) “Passports to Eternity: Whales’ Teeth and Transcendence in Fijian Methodism,” in Lenore Manderson, Wendy Smith, & Matt Tomlinson (eds) Flows of Faith: Religious Reach and Community in Asia and the Pacific (Springer, New York).
Abstract: Christianity is often considered a religion of transcendence, in which divinity “goes beyond” human space and time. Recent anthropological scholarship has noted, however, that claims to transcendence must be expressed materially. This chapter examines the ways in which Fijian Methodists attempt to achieve a kind of Christian transcendence in which they escape negative influences of the vanua (land, chiefdoms, and the “traditional” order generally). They do so by offering sperm whales’ teeth to church authorities in order to apologise and atone for the sins of ancestors. Such rituals do not achieve the transcendence they aim for, however, as the whales’ teeth–the material tokens offered to gain divine favour–gain their ritual value precisely because of their attachment to the vanua.