Abstract: The discipline called the “anthropology of Christianity” began to gain traction in the early to mid-2000s when interested scholars focused on Christianity as an object of collaborative and comparative cross-cultural analysis. Along with several landmark works of Joel Robbins, one foundational text is Fenella Cannell’s edited volume The Anthropology of Christianity, published in 2006. In her introductory essay, Cannell poses a pointed question for the volume and the discipline itself: “What difference does Christianity make?” Bracketing the question of whether “difference” can or should be defined (Green 2014), several anthropologists have taken inspiration from Cannell, including Naomi Haynes (2014) in the concluding essay to a recent special issue of Current Anthropology, and myself and Debra McDougall (2013) in an edited volume on Christian politics in Oceania. Difference, as the criterion by which continuity and transformation are evaluated, is arguably the key concept for an effective anthropological engagement with Christianity.
Abstract: This Introduction to this Special Issue of Oceania, ‘Descent from Israel: Jewish Identities in the Pacific, Past and Present’, sets the historical context of European interest in Pacific peoples as descended from the ‘Lost Tribes’ of the biblical Hebrews. After surveying the way in which Pacific Christians in the past and present have adopted a Jewish identity, whether through genealogy, biblical and theological interpretation, and/or deep interest in the State of Israel, we then contextualise and summarise the scholarship that follows: on Jewish identity as adopted by churches and religious movements in Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua Guinea, as well as a final reflection on their significance for Judaism today.
Abstract: Kingdom tok is an expression that is increasingly used in Honiara. It describes a set of ideas and practices related to what Solomon Islanders see as a recent ‘season’ in their history. Such a season is characterised by the reappropriation of particular meanings of their faith that they perceive as influenced by recent historical processes such as the colonial era, the introduction of Christianity, and the first few decades from independence. In terms of ‘Kingdom’, they envision the possibility to challenge political hierarchies, social stratification, and issues of governance, as well as to re-define their identities in relation to a general state of empowerment. In Honiara, Pentecostal churches and groups with a strong identification with Judaism make use of Kingdom tok discourses. I claim that they experience the actualisation of Kingdom tok as concrete projects of social action and service provision, which they see as concrete alternatives to historical churches, the state, and the ‘way of the waitman’.
Timmer, Jaap. 2015. Being-in-the-Covenant: Reflections on the Crisis of Historicism in North Malaita, Solomon Islands. In Kalpana Ram and Chris Houston (eds), Phenomenology in Anthropology: A Sense of Perspective, pp. 175-194. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Excerpt: Biblical prophecy makes a major contribution to discourses and practices of nation and destiny in Solomon Islands. After discussing its broader context, this article investigates the power of Old Testament prophecies through analysis of the 2010 Queen’s Birthday speech of Solomon Islands’ governor-general Sir Frank Kabui, entitled “Our connection with the Throne of England”… [which] focuses on a British-Israelite theory that claims that Jacob’s pillar stone is kept in Scotland because the kings and queens of Britain are the seed-royal to the House of David…
Abstract: The notion that forebears of Solomon Islanders might be descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel is widespread among To’abaita speakers in North Malaita, and it features in a particular way in the theology of the popular All Peoples Prayer Assembly (APPA), also known as the Deep Sea Canoe Movement. Prominent in this boast of an Israelite genealogy is a utopian fantasy of a just “Israel” grounded in the ancestral soil of the island of Malaita. This article describes the APPA worldview as an alternative modernity that is meaningful to the To’abaitans because it provides a new sense of self and a shared destiny. Although APPA’s theology relates to the people’s socio-economic concerns, it reveals more clearly the continuity of some key cultural models through changing global influences, local histories and cultural dynamics.