Publisher’s Description: Faith and the Pursuit of Health explores how Pentecostal Christians manage chronic illness in ways that sheds light on health disparities and social suffering in Samoa, a place where rates of obesity and related cardiometabolic disorders have reached population-wide levels. Pentecostals grapple with how to maintain the health of their congregants in an environment that fosters cardiometabolic disorders. They find ways to manage these forms of sickness and inequality through their churches and the friendships developed within these institutions. Examining how Pentecostal Christianity provides many Samoans with tools to manage day-to-day issues around health and sickness, Jessica Hardin argues for understanding the synergies between how Christianity and biomedicine practice chronicity.
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.
Abstract: This article explores how prayer group leaders manage and interpret risk-in-ritual during a home-based Pentecostal intercession. The group was formed in an office setting and led by three female managers. They interceded together during their lunch hour for over a year. The intercession was the one time the prayer group moved from the office to the home of one of the female leaders. This transition sparked a number of problems associated with group unity, which indicated risks-in-ritual. Managing risk was focused on managing forms of social difference such as age, gender, rank, and denomination. I draw from the feminist theory of intersectionality to argue that in the process of translating social differences of gender, age, rank, and denomination into spiritual differences in ritual, future ritual agendas are created. This future-creating capacity of ritual reinforced the authority of those who adjudicated and interpreted those risks-in-ritual. My example is taken from 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Samoa between 2011 and 2012.
Fer, Yannick. 2016. “Youth With a Mission in the Pacific Islands: From Evangelical globalization to the reshaping of local cultural identities.” in F. Magowan et C. Schwartz (eds.), 2016, Christianity, Conflict, and Renewal in Australia and the Pacific, Leiden/Boston, Brill, pp. 81-101.
Abstract: The rise of Pentecostal-charismatic movements in Polynesia today is opening up new spaces for converts to engage in the contemporary dynamics of globalization, encouraging them to question the intertwined links between religion, culture, and the land, as shaped by local Christian cultures. A complex articulation of converts’ voluntary disaffiliation from traditional religion and their critical reappropriation of Christianity create dilemmas of identity, as Polynesian “Christian tradition” finds no unanimous response within the Pentecostal-charismatic field. Indeed, in recent decades, these movements have led to a double diversification, brought about on the one hand, by the growth of The Christianity of the South and, on the other hand, by the increasing separation of charismatic streams from classical Pentecostal theology.
The charismatic network Youth with a Mission (YWAM), which has been present in Oceania for forty years, exemplifies this global transformation of the Pentecostal-charismatic field and its local impact upon reshaping the identity of Pacific Islander youth. After situating this network within contemporary Pacific Island Protestantism and the post-World War ii American context, this chapter examines the patterns of YWAM global culture, including its positive representation of cultural diversity. I show how these trends generated a militant reappropriation and renewal of cultural identities within the Christian space among young Polynesian converts at the outset of the 1980s. In particular, the Island Breeze movement, a YWAM ministry launched in 1979 by the Samoan Sosene Le’au, claims to seek the “redemption of cultures” and advocates the use of Polynesian dances as both an expression of Christian faith and a universal missionary tool. Finally, an analysis of the links between the YWAM global charismatic culture and this local religious renewing and reshaping of Polynesian cultural identities illuminates several points of adjustment or tension: between individual “new birth”, regional migrations and cultural authenticity; and between historical relationships of domination and the emergence of a “Christian indigeneity influenced by the global theology of “spiritual warfare”.
lHardin, Jessica. 2016. Claiming Pule, Manifesting Mana: Ordinary Ethics and Pentecostal Self‐making in Samoa. In Matt Tomlinson and Ty P. Kāwika Tengan, eds., New Mana Transformations of a Classic Concept in Pacific Languages and Cultures. Canberra: ANU Press.
Excerpt: While mana and pule are concepts shared among Christians in Samoa, I focus on two everyday uses of the terms: first, how Pentecostal Christians are taught to manifest mana, which is a capacity that is supposed to be available to all born-again believers; second, how mana and pule are invoked in interdenominational contexts. Claiming pule and channelling mana mediates tensions surrounding Pentecostal Christians striving for individual agency and indigenous notions of flexible and context-specific notions of agency, which are also expressed in mainline Christianity. Pentecostal Christians are explicitly taught how to manage individual agency in ethical ways through cultivating a personal relationship with God, which enables supplicants to become agents of mana. Claiming pule and channelling mana are thus discursive tools for managing tensions surrounding agency by allowing born-again Christians to decentre individual agency and foreground God’s agency. In everyday life in Samoa there is a hierarchical imperative of defaulting to titled or high status people. The three most widely circulating criticisms in Samoa— fiapalagi (to try or want to be white), fiapotu (to try or want to be smart), and accusations that suggest pride, including fiamaualuga (wanting to be high) or mimita (to be boastful)—suggest that claiming authority and power is difficult because of a general bias against individual agency and non-titled authority (see also Gershon 2006: 145). The personal and individual relationship with God encouraged in Pentecostal Christianity heightens these already present anxieties about individual agency and authority (see also Eriksen 2014).
I examine mana and pule through the lens of what Michael Lambek calls ‘ordinary ethics’ to explore how claiming divine pule and mana is a strategic and ordinary way to deflect individual agency. Focusing on ‘“ordinary” implies an ethics that is relatively tacit, grounded in agreement rather than rule, in practice rather than knowledge or belief and happening without calling undue attention to itself ’ (Lambek 2010: 2). Similarly, selfhood requires embodied and discursive labour that is often a tacit, taken-for-granted, orientational process (Csordas 1994: ix) and an embodied and historically situated practical knowledge (Battaglia 1995: 3). Manifesting mana, and its pair pule, are discursive tools of everyday ethical practice that enable believers to speak and act with culturally recognised authority. Claiming divine authority and channelling divine power through the self are everyday ways that Pentecostal Christians in Samoa carve out distinct (i.e. different from mainline Christianity) and ethical ways of generating power in ways that are legible and valued across Christianities.
Abstract: Drawing on fieldwork in independent Samoa, in this article, I analyze the temporal dimensions of evangelical Christian healing of metabolic disorders. I explore how those suffering with metabolic disorders draw from multiple time-based notions of healing, drawing attention to the limits of biomedicine in contrast with the effectiveness of Divine healing. By simultaneously engaging evangelical and biomedical temporalities, I argue that evangelical Christians create wellness despite sickness and, in turn, re-signify chronic suffering as a long-term process of Christian healing. Positioning biomedical temporality and evangelical temporality as parallel yet distinctive ways of practicing healing, therefore, influences health care choices.
Hardin, Jessica. 2015. “Christianity, Fat Talk, and Samoan Pastors: Rethinking the Fat-Positive-Fat-Stigma Framework.” Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society. DOI: 10.1080/21604851.2015.1015924
Abstract: Anthropology, public health, and epidemiology have long researched meanings of body size and factors that contribute to epidemiological transition. The author draws attention to a dichotomous framework operating with these fields where fat-positive and fat-negative cultures are represented as oppositional. Drawing from fieldwork among Samoan evangelical Christians, the author argues that contextual analysis of fat reveals ambiguity and ambivalence. In Samoa, negative and positive meanings associated with fat are dynamically engaged. In conclusion, she argues that representing fat in dichotomous terms is Othering because “the West” is represented as the fat-negative while “the rest” is represented as fat-positive.
Abstract: This dissertation examines how rising rates of metabolic disorders are interpreted by evangelical Christians in Samoa as evidence of the need for (re)Christianization. Evangelical Christians critique mainline Christianity as a source of suffering, and posit a relationship between church-based exchange and metabolic disorders. Metabolic disorders are particularly difficult to heal in the cultural context of Samoa because they require individuals to change their everyday lives in ways that challenge common Samoan practices of well-being, including food-sharing and feeding. Metabolic disorders also require Samoans to reformulate the associations power and potency have with large body size. This dissertation explores the ways medicalized ideas of food, fat, and fitness travel into evangelical Christian contexts in order to examine the generative intersection of religion and medicalization. While the medicalization of food, fat, and fitness is readily accepted, many Samoans struggle with how to actualize changes to their health behaviors (i.e., to eat differently, to exercise) because of the constraints of church and family obligations, and cash-poverty. Evangelical churches offer new ways to participate in church-based exchange, which are explicitly directed at alleviating cash-poverty, and evangelical Christianity has, through the linking of salvation and healing, developed ways for born-again Samoans to change health behaviors. Through conversion and healing practices, many born-again people also examine the relationships that may be a source of suffering. Data was collected over two years of ethnographic fieldwork between 2008 and 2012; fieldwork included participant observation in biomedical facilities (hospitals and clinics), in churches (Sunday services, healing ministries, Bible study, and prayer groups), and in two households. In-depth interviews were also conducted with a range of Christians and health practitioners. In a time of deepening socio-economic inequalities and increased dependence on cash, this dissertation argues that evangelical notions of well-being, in conversation with medicalization, bring into focus the socio-economic inequalities that cause metabolic disorders––inequalities that medicalization alone tends to eschew. In turn, evangelical Christians come to examine the embodied evidence of disease (e.g., stress, anger, high blood pressure) as evidence of those inequalities.
Hardin, Jessica A. 2013. Fasting for Health, Fasting for God: Samoan Evangelical Christian Responses to Obesity and Chronic Disease. In Reconstructing Obesity: The Meaning of Measures and the Measures of Meaning. Edited by Megan McCullough and Jessica Hardin, 107-130. New York: Berghahn.
Excerpt: The motivation to write this paper was sparked during conversations with public health practitioners and Pacific scholars after returning from preliminary fieldwork trips over the course of three years. Whenever I would mention to Pacific scholars working in the United States or public health practitioners working with Pacific islanders that I was doing research on fasting, the response was generally: “Samoan people fast?” This motivated me to explore why the Samoan practice of fasting seems like such a contradictory idea.
The first part of this puzzle is that anthropologists often associate Samoans with lavish food presentations as a key dimension of exchange relationships; this association informs not only social relationships but also bodily idioms and subjectivity. For many public health practitioners, Samoa elicits an image of fast foods, fatty meats, obesity, and attendant diseases. The question arises, then, how and why is the practice of fasting a common topic of discussion among Samoan Christians when it seems, at least on the surface, to contradict Samoan food ideologies and anthropological understanding of the connection between consumption, body size, and abundance? How is fasting appropriated into a food ideology that values large body sizes and views eating as a central dimension of sociality?