Tomlinson, “Repetition in the work of a Samoan Christian theologian”

Tomlinson, Matt. “Repetition in the work of a Samoan Christian theologian: Or, what does it mean to speak of the Perfect Pig of God?” History and Anthropology

Abstract: The Samoan Christian theologian Ama’amalele Tofaeono draws on diverse intellectual sources to articulate an ecological theology both distinctively Samoan and self-consciously Oceanic. I examine Tofaeono’s writings through the lens of recent work in linguistic anthropology on repetition and replication. By paying close attention to the ways texts and their original contexts, authorship, and intentions can be brought forward into new contexts, such anthropological work offers a useful perspective on Tofaeono’s theological arguments about creation and salvation. Tofaeono frames creation and salvation as actions that are necessarily ongoing—matters of repetition rather than rupture, a kind of continuity that depends not on fundamental durability but on repeated reengagement. An appreciation of Tofaeono’s articulation of time and repetition can in turn illuminate the anthropological study of social transformation and help develop productive interdisciplinary dialogue between anthropology and theology.

Tomlinson, “Bringing Kierkegaard into anthropology”

Tomlinson, Matt. 2014. Bringing Kierkegaard into anthropology: repetition, absurdity, and curses in Fiji. American Ethnologist 41(1): 163-175.

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.