Churches in Port Vila – Survey 2010

Annelin Eriksen and Rose Andrew

This presentation of churches in Port Vila is based on interviews with church and ministry leaders
in July and August 2006 and from January until May 2010.


Pentecostal Churches in Honiara – Survey 2013

This is a list of all the Pentecostal churches that Rodolfo Maggio visited in Honiara between October 2011 and November 2012. The information is intended to be used by those who have an interest in Pentecostalism in Melanesia and plan to conduct their fieldwork research in Solomon Islands. The list is designed to provide basic coordinates for fieldworkers to orient their selection of suitable research sites.

Rodolfo Maggio


Annotated bibliography


Douglas, B. (1998). Traditional individuals? Gendered negotiations of identity, Christianity and citizenship in Vanuatu. State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Project, ANU, Discussion paper no. 98/6.


This is a preliminary paper following recent fieldwork in Vanuatu. The rhetorical question in the title challenges two pervasive stereotypes: first, the presumed universal applicability of the hierarchical opposition society:individual and its corollary, the conception of ‘societies’ as encompassing collectivities of bounded, autonomous ‘individuals’; second, the hoary conventional opposition of ‘Oceanic’ (relational/communal) and ‘Western’ (bounded/individual) concepts of the person.1 The second stereotype categorically segregates so-called ‘primitive’ or ‘traditional’ societies from ‘modern’ or ‘Western[ised]’ ones on the basis that the former lack a concept of the self as an autonomous individual, regarded as an effect and a characteristic of ‘civilisation’ or modernity


Douglas, B. (2001). From invisible Christians to gothic theatre: the romance of the millennialin Melanesian anthropology. Curr. Anthropol. 42, 615–50.

This paper is a history and textual critique of the anthropology of millennial, pentecostal, and charismatic Christianity in Melanesia located in relation to interpretations of indigenous religiosities worldwide, particularly mainstream Christianity but including cargo cults and millenarianism generally. An important subtext is the correlation between anthropological scholarship and the empirical settings of fieldwork, historicizing ethnographic texts in terms of indigenous actions and desires which subtly helped mould particular representations. Anthropologys major national traditions have been pervasively secular, romantic, and ahistoric. In Melanesia anthropologists essentialized exotic, traditional ritual complexes and mostly elided the less dramatic, mobile religious practices and experiences of the evergrowing majority of Melanesians who appropriated varieties of Christianity to their own ends. Only recently has mainstream Melanesian Christianity become a proper topic for ethnography, often in conjunction with a prolific literature on the politics of tradition. Emblematic of the extent to which anthropologists are shifting Christianity from outside to within Melanesian religiosity is an emergent ethnographic focus on burgeoning pentecostal, charismatic, and millennial Christianity. Such movements may better cater to the disciplines expertise in exotic ritualizing than the seeming mundanity of mainstream Christian practices, but there is also powerful indigenous impetus in anthropologys romance with the millennial.


Douglas, B. (2002). Christian citizens: Women and negotiations of modernity in Vanuatu. Contemporary Pacific, 14(1), 1-38.

This paper seeks to unpack the ambiguous intersections of gender, Christianity, and kastom, together with place, island, and nation in a modern Melanesian state. It does so through a series of verbal “snapshots,” mostly of mundane settings, which chart the ambivalent, mobile interplay of individual and community in the self-representations and actions of ni-Vanuatu, particularly women. The snapshots juxtapose local and wider aspects of ni-Vanuatu women’s past and present lives as Christians and citizens, locating them successively in the remote island of Aneityum and in urban and national contexts. Arguing that women’s agency deserves the same scrutiny as that of men, I problematize the romantic secularism that slights indigenous women’s engagements in apparently banal Christian settings and activities, especially fellowship groups and sewing, because they seem to advance hegemonic agendas of conversion, domestication, and modernization. Instead I see the growing social and economic significance of Christian w o m e n ’s groups inVa n u a t u ’s villages as potentially empowering for rural women. By contrast, women are generally absent from authority positions in the churches and in the nation-state—the latter a mainly male domain experienced as ineffectual by most ni-Vanuatu. Notwithstanding widespread indigenous suspicion of “western feminism,” women’s issues and gender relations are kept uneasily on the national agenda by the women’s wings of the mainline churches and particularly by the umbrella women’s organizations, the Vanuatu National Council of Women and the Vanuatu Women’s Centre.

Eriksen, A. (2005). The gender of the church: Conflicts and social wholes on Ambrym. Oceania, 75(3), 284-300.

“I will in this paper show how the church on Ambrym has become first and foremost a female gendered institution. I argue that the female appropriation of the church has influenced the relation between the genders in certain practices and also the relationship between the church and kastom. Whereas the church has become a female institution, kastom has to a certain extent become male. This gendered relationship between church and kastom is, as I will show, one of mutual interdependence, rather than exclusion and opposition. I argue that one of the reasons why the church has become female gendered is the connection between the way the church has come to represent social communities and the way structural premises underpinning kinship and marriage make connection-making a female gendered practice. I will therefore start this argument by showing how the church becomes gendered and thereby how it has become an idiom of social belonging”

Eriksen, A. (2006). Expected and unexpected cultural heroes: Reflections on gender and agency of conjuncture on Ambrym, Vanuatu, Anthropological Theory, 6(2), 227-247.

This article is an attempt to engage with Marshall Sahlins’ theory of historical transformation (1985) as well as his latest works on the agency of conjuncture (2004, 2005). It is an attempt to highlight the micro-history of some women and low ranking men on the Melanesian island of Ambrym in Vanuatu, specifically their encounter with the church and the unexpected agency resulting from this encounter. The story of how the different churches in the area got established, the way the chiefs reacted, and the power struggle between chiefs and missionaries is outlined, and placed in comparison with another perspective on the way the church got ‘rooted’ in Ambrym, and how then it travelled and spread. Having outlined the ethnography, the epistemological consequences of different perspectives on culture, change and history are discussed.


Eriksen, A. (2008a). Gender, Christianity and change, an analysis of social movements in north Ambrym, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Focusing on cultural   change and the socio-political movements in the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu,   this book uses both anthropological and historical analysis to examine the way the relationship between gender and Christianity has shaped processes of social change. Based on extensive research conducted over decades, it is one of the few books available to focus on Vanuatu and on the impact of Christianity in Melanesia more generally; as well as on the significance of  gender relations in understanding these developments. Providing a model for understanding and comparing processes of change in small-scale societies, the book will appeal to scholars and students interested in the ethnography of Melanesia and in issues related to   contemporary cultural change and gender more generally


Eriksen, A. (2008b). Healing the nation; In Search of Unity through the Holy Spirit in Vanuatu Social Analysis, 53(1), 67–81.


The rapid growth of new Pentecostal churches in the South West Pacific nation Vanuatu is the focus of this article. It is argued that we need to look at the social dimensions of new religious movements—the way that the social in itself becomes the key to a transformed life—in order to gain an understanding of these movements’ significance and proliferation in this area. This does not imply that the religious in its ontological sense is not important, but that this might be inseparable from the social—the rules and regulations, the activities and meetings. In order to highlight this dimension of the new churches, the literature on the cargo movements from Melanesia is used as a comparative background.


Eriksen, A. (2009). “New Life”: Pentecostalism as Social Critique in Vanuatu. Ethnos, 74(2), 175-198.

This paper argues that the new Pentecostal churches proliferating in the southwest Pacific nation, Vanuatu, must be understood in relation to the colonial history, the history of the churches, and the way the nation achieved its independence. The dominating frames of understanding Pentecostal churches in anthropology today, what I call the sociological perspective and the economic perspective, are insufficient in this context. Through an analysis of specific church groups breaking away from the mainline churches, and their Pentecostal-oriented rhetoric, I argue that the focus on change and on the break with the past becomes meaningful in relation to a general political development. The independent, new churches thus become powerful social movements working for social change. This change is specifically connected to the failures of the state; their failure to secure and protect, for instance, land rights against foreign investment.

Eriksen, A. (2012). The pastor and the prophetess; an analysis of gender and Christianity in Vanuatu, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 18(1), 103-122.

The focus of this article is the proliferation of new charismatic Pentecostal churches in the South Pacific nation Vanuatu. The established Presbyterian Church on the island of Ambrym  is compared to a new Pentecostal church in the capital Port Vila in terms of gender. The idea of a vanishing form of masculinity and the development of a form of ‘gender nostalgia’ is emphasized in the comparison. By looking at gender relations, new perspectives on the difference between the new churches and more established churches emerge, and these perspectives, I argue, might also give us an understanding of why fission seem to be inevitable for the new Pentecostal churches in Vanuatu.

Eves, R. (2003). Money, mayhem and the beast: narratives of the world’s end from New Ireland (Papua New Guinea). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 9(3), 527–47.

This article discusses the relationship between money, the nation, and new imaginings of apocalypticism in Papua New Guinea. Robert Foster has argued that money played an important role in the Australian administration’s efforts to promote a sense of nation at the end of the colonial period. I explore the effects of the new imaginings beyond the nation that are occurring as Christian apocalypticism becomes a dominant framework for interpreting the world. New meanings and values are being attached to money, resulting in the destabilization of the strong link between money and nation that was observed by Foster. I argue that, within this new world-view, money is losing its symbolic potency, that new forms of identity are emerging, and that people’s attachment to the nation is being weakened.


Eves, R. (2010). “‘In God’s Hands’: Pentecostal Christianity, Morality, and Illness in a Melanesian Society.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 16(3), 496-514.

In preparation for the imminent end of the world, converts to new evangelical forms of Christianity among the Lelet of New Ireland must practise constant self-scrutiny and self-discipline. Previously wrongdoing was unproblematic if concealed; now signs of sin are keenly sought in self and others. Illness, as God’s punishment, is a significant sign of sin. To be cured, the ill must be scrupulously virtuous – thus doubly introspective. This accent on moral agency makes illness a source of public and internalized shame, intensifying an impetus towards a new form of conscience. Illnesses and deaths undergo a tortuous process of evaluation, in the light of competing traditional, biomedical, and new religious views. The new has not swept away the old; rather, change is incorporated in ways that are difficult to predict. The development of an internalized conscience in Lelet converts, though theoretically likely, cannot be taken for granted

Eves, R. (2011). “Great Signs from Heaven”: Christian Discourses of the End of the World from New Ireland. Asia-Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 12(1), 1–15.

The intensifying global spread of apocalyptic forms of Christianity, now well established in Papua New Guinea, has popularised readings of the Bible that stress a cataclysmic end of the world from which only the faithful will be saved. This paper examines the way that this apocalyptic discourse is being embraced by the Lelet of central New Ireland, taking the case of an earthquake that occurred during the year 2000. Apocalypticism is increasingly the operative explanatory framework for unusual events that are seen as signs. However, recourse to it varies between individuals. Signs are very carefully examined and various theories, new and old, are considered before an explanation is finally accepted. I argue that the acceptance of new beliefs does not always depend on the existence of prior similar beliefs, and neither are older beliefs simply displaced by the new.


Facey, E. (1997). Kastom and Nation Making: The Politicization of Tradition on Nguna, Vanuatu. In Nation Making, Emergent Identities in Postcolonial Melanesia, edited by Robert J. Foster, pp. 207–225. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Facey explores the issue of local appropriation through a case study of how a rural community receives and interprets images and narratives of the nation circulated via nationwide political processes. Keywords: Kastom, Christianity, tradition, nation, Vanuatu


Hess, S. (2006). Strathern’s Melanesian ‘dividual’ and the Christian ‘individual’: a perspective from Vanua Lava, Vanuatu. Oceania, 76(3), 285-296.

What happens to people’s concept of the person when their ‘dividuality’ engages with the Christian concept of the ‘individual’? According to Vanua Lava kastom, when people die they go to sere timiat, the place of the dead. But do they still go there when the person had been a Christian during their life time? Where is the Christian heaven and hell? Is there a separate Christian ‘soul’? Will the dead be eternally separated from each other and their ancestors? Can kastom and Christian concepts be reconciled? Depending on denomination and degree of conversion (devout, nominal, or ‘back-slider’) people have found multiple answers that help them conceptualise their final resting place. Their answers are of relevance for theoretical debates in anthropology about dividuality, individuality and engagement with modernity.


Jacka, J. K. (2005). Emplacement and Millennial Expectations in an Era of Development and Globalization: Heaven and the Appeal of Christianity for the Ipili. American Anthropologist, 107(4), 643-653.

Non-Western Christianity engages with capitalist development and ideas of modernization from multiple and competing perspectives. In this article, I argue that as researchers we can weave together disparate theoretical strands attempting to explain the appeal of Christianity—particularly its Pentecostal and charismatic forms—by examining indigenous notions of “salvation” that have often been overlooked in the literature. To illustrate, I examine millennial Christianity among the Ipili of Papua New Guinea, demonstrating how their understandings of “heaven” and their desire for the Second Coming articulate with a concern regarding how social relations are spatialized through engagement with capitalist mining development, evangelical Christianity, and traditional spirits responsible for maintaining the world’s integrity.

Keywords: Christianity;development;globalization;place;Ipili


Jebens, H. (2005). Pathways to Heaven: Contesting Mainline and Fundamentalist Christianity in Papua New Guinea. New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books.

How does global Christianity relate to processes of globalisation and modernization and what form does it take in different local settings? These questions have lately proved to be of increasing interest to many scholars in the social sciences and humanities. This study examines the tensions, antagonisms and outright confrontations that can occur within local Christian communities upon the arrival of global versions of fundamentalism and it does so through a rich and in-depth ethnographic study of a single case: that of Pairundu, a small and remote Papua New Guinean village whose population accepted Catholicism, after first being contacted in the late 1950s, and subsequently participated in a charismatic movement, before more and more members of the younger generation started to separate themselves from their respective catholic families and to convert to one of the most radical and fastest growing religious groups not only in contemporary Papua New Guinea but world-wide: the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. This case study of local Christianity as a lived religion contributes to an understanding of the social and cultural dynamics that increasingly incite and shape religious conflicts on a global scale.


Jorgensen, D. (2005). Third Wave Evangelism and the Politics of the Global in Papua New Guinea: Spiritual Warfare and the Recreation of Place in Telefolmin. Oceania, 75(4), 444–461.

Third Wave pentecostalist theology envisages a global struggle against satanic forces as ‘spiritual warfare.’ Here I examine an instance of spiritual warfare that targeted the village of Telefolip as part of a national campaign. Embracing evangelical doctrines of the dependence of ‘physical development’ on ‘spiritual development,’ villagers burned ancestral relics and purport to have found ‘ uranium gas’ on the site of a former spirit house. This discovery is held to be full of promise for the future: as a valuable (if imaginary) resource in Israel’s struggles, uranium gas offers villagers wealth and a means of asserting local centrality in global terms. I conclude by arguing that an understanding of the conjunction of spiritual warfare’s aims with villagers’ hopes for a place in the world beyond the village is crucial to analyzing the dynamics of pentecostalist world-breaking and world-making.


McDougall, D. (2009). Christianity, relationality and the material limits of individualism: reflections on Robbins’s Becoming sinners. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 10, 1-19.

In his 2004 monograph, Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society, Joel Robbins argues that the Urapmin, a small group of newly converted Chistrians in the Papua New Guinea Highlands, are trapped between two conflicting systems of values, namely the relationality of indigenous culture and the individuality of Christian culture. Yet, Robbins suggests that the Urapmin are troubled not only by conflicting values, but also by the fact that they have embraced a new ideological system without changing the material base of their lives, that is, subsistence agriculture on land owned by kin groups. Drawing on Robbins’s work on the Urapmin and my own research on two different Christian denominations in the Western Solomon Islands, I bring a political–economic dimension to discussions of subjectivity, cultural change and ideologies of modernity that have arisen within the anthropology of Christianity.


Mosko, M. (2001). Syncretic persons: agency and personhood in recent charismatic ritual practices among North Mekeo (PNG). In Beyond syncretism (eds) J. Gordon & F. Magowan. The Anthropological Journal of Australia (special issue) 12, 259-76.

This paper explores the syncretic accommodations made by North Mekeo (PNG) villagers arising from recent historical encounters with Catholic (Sacred Heart) missionaries over issues of ritual authenticity and effectiveness, personhood, and agency in a wider field of Christian evangelism and globalisation. Through a careful examination and comparison of pre-existing ritual notions and practices (e.g., sorcery techniques, mortuary ritual performance, gender rituals) and the recent trends of commodification and enthusiastic Catholic charismatic performance, what might appear to be incongruous religious beliefs and practices are shown to possess numerous remarkably compatible similarities at the level of explicit cultural categorisation and ritual enactment. In accord with long-standing anthropological arguments, recent North Mekeo syncretism thus consists of an integrated, albeit transformed rather than ‘confused’, mixing of indigenous and exogenous religious elements. Further, in this analysis of recent Melanesian religious change syncretism implies a novel conceptual convergence between syncretic processes and the dynamics of personhood, sociality and agency as construed in the framework of the ‘new Melanesian ethnography’.


Olson E. (2001). Signs of conversion, spirit of commitment: the Pentecostal church in the Kingdom of Tonga. J. Ritual Stud. 15(2), 13–26.


Rio, K. and A. Eriksen (2013). Missionaries, Healing and Sorcery in Melanesia: A Scottish Evangelist in Ambrym Island, Vanuatu. History & Anthropology 24(3), 398-418.


Robbins, J. (1998). On reading ‘world news’: apocalyptic narrative, negative nationalism, and transnational Christianity in a Papua New Guinea Society. Social Analysis 42, 103–30.

One of the salutary effects of anthropology’s new-found will to look beyond borders has been the recognition that the nation must be understood not only in relation to subnational identities like those of region or (as they are often understood) class and ethnicity, but also in the context of identities tied to larger imagined communities that claim a transnational existence (Foster 1991; Gupta 1992; Williams 1991). The effort to carry out fully the kinds of projects this recognition calls for is somewhat hampered, however, by certain disjunctions between the literature on nationalism and that on transnationalism. While studies of nationalism tend to focus on the construction of national identities and the communal images that support them, studies of transnationalism concentrate more on the sociological fact and cultural representation of movement — be it of people, things, or images — with less ethnographic attention than one might like paid to the way stay-at-homes (who still constitute the bulk of the population in many of the places anthropologists study) construct transnational identities for themselves. In this article I try to close this gap by exploring the character of transnational identifications in a single ethnographic case, that of the Urapmin of the Sandaun Province of Papua New Guinea. The Urapmin assumption of a transnational identity takes place in a context in which they are also negotiating their relationship to racial and national identities that similarly connect them to people living beyond their local borders. The play between these three translocal identities is crucial to the definition of each of them. Hence, this article has as its most general ambition the development of a means of analyzing the ways various translocal identities are developed in dialectical relationship to one another.


Robbins, J. (2001a). Introduction: global religions, Pacific island transformations. J. Ritual Stud. 15, 7–12.


Robbins, J. (2001b). Whatever became of revival: from charismatic movement to charismatic church in a Papua New Guinea society. J. Ritual Stud. 15, 79–90.


Robbins, J. (2001c). Secrecy and the sense of an ending: narrative, time and everyday millenarianism in Papua New Guinea and in Christian fundamentalism. Comparative Studies in Society and History 43, 525-51.

This article begins with the claim that the hunting messiah of the Ghost Dance is not an anomaly. Many millenarians throughout history and in different places have mixed a strong belief in the imminent end of the world as they know it with a steady commitment to carrying out the tasks of everyday life. I call those who manage to balance these seemingly contradictory ways of approaching life “everyday millenarians.” The purpose of this article is to describe everyday millenarianism and to account for its ability to serve as a meaningful and enduring framework for social life despite what appears to social scientists to be the irresolvable contradiction that follows from the way it tells people both to invest in this world and to expect this world to end at any moment. This social scientific perception of contradiction follows, I will argue, from an inability to understand the model of time that characterizes everyday millenarianism, a model that has not been accorded sufficient attention in the anthropological literature. Having laid out this model of time, and in doing so having also argued for the value of engaging theoretical arguments about the role of narrative in shaping perceptions of time, I go on to consider the way this model under- lies everyday millenarianism both among the Urapmin of Papua New Guinea and among fundamentalists in the United States. I conclude by using the evidence of everyday millenarianism to open up a consideration of some classic issues having to do with the relationship between people’s social experience and their models of time.


Robbins, J. (2002). ‘My wife can’t break off part of her belief and give it to me:’ apocalyptic interrogations of Christian individualism among the Urapmin of Papua New Guinea. Paideuma, 48, 189–206.

It is commonplace for students of the rise of individualism in the West to accord an important role in this process to Christianity.1 With its focus on the individual as the unit of salvation and the emphasis it places on self-examination, the argument goes, Christianity largely initiated Western reflection on the individual and decisively shaped the direction that reflection has taken. Yet the complexity of both individualism and Christianity makes broadly phrased historical arguments to this effect difficult to lay out in terms that are more than suggestive; for every argument about the Christian ori- gins of individualism, there will be counter- arguments that locate its origin elsewhere (e.g. Merquior 1990, cf. Buss 2000). In the context of this debate, the relatively recent Christianisation of many Melanesian societies is interesting for the opportunity it offers to observe in detail the way in which Christianity, at least in some of its contemporary forms, can promote individualism amongst people who did not previously think in terms of it. And while it would be foolish to pretend that in these cases we have any- thing approaching controlled experimental conditions, it is true that in many areas of Melanesia Christianity is so much better understood and profoundly used than other Western cultural elements (e.g. the market or democratic governance) that one does have there a chance to examine the kind of notion of the individual that Christianity is able to generate when it has to operate without much assistance from those other aspects of Western culture that helped shape individualism in the West. The goal of this article is to provide such an examination using ethnographic materials drawn from fieldwork among the Urapmin of the Sandaun Province of Papua New Guinea


Robbins, J. (2003). On the paradoxes of global Pentecostalism and the perils of continuity thinking. Religion, 33, 221–31.

While recognizing that my claim that anthropology has mostly been a science of continuity may be contentious, I am going to take it as given in what follows for the sake of making a point about how the globalization of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity raises an interesting predicament for the discipline understood in these terms.1 On the one hand, I will argue, the way Pentecostal Christianity has interacted with the cultures it has come into contact with seems to play into the hands of those who want to argue that continuity is more fundamental than change. Yet on the other, its spread also seems to foster very dramatic changes that demand to be seen as introducing real discontinuities into people’s lives. Pentecostal Christianity can appear to do both of these things at once because its globalization has been marked by two apparent paradoxes. I discuss these paradoxes in order to argue that a full understanding of the globalization of Pentecostalism requires the development of an anthropology of discontinuity at least as robust asthe existing anthropology of continuity.


Robbins, J. (2004a). The Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. Ann.Review of Anthropology, 33, 117–43.

Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity (P/c), the form of Christianity in which believers receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is rapidly spreading and can be counted as one of the great success stories of the current era of cultural globalization. Literature on P/c presents a paradoxical picture of the cultural dynamics accompanying its spread. Many scholars argue that P/c is markedly successful in replicating itself in canonical form everywhere it spreads, whereas others stress its ability to adapt itself to the cultures into which it is introduced. Authors thus use P/c to support both theories that construe globalization as a process of Westernizing homogenization and those that understand it as a process of indigenizing differentiation. This review argues that approaches to P/c globalization need to recognize that P/c posesses cultural features that allow it, in most cases, to work in both ways at once. After considering definitional and historical issues and explanations for P/c’s spread, the review examines how P/c culture at once preserves its distinctness from the cultures into which it comes into contact and engages those cultures on their own terms. Also discussed are the conceptions that allow P/c to establish locally run and supported institutions in a wide range of settings. A final section considers the nature of the culture P/c, in its homogenizing guise, introduces, examining that culture’s relation to modernity and its effects on converts’ ideas about gender, politics, and economics.


Robbins, J. (2004b). Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. Berkeley: Univ. Calif. Press.

In a world of swift and sweeping cultural transformations, few have seen changes as rapid and dramatic as those experienced by the Urapmin of Papua New Guinea in the last four decades. A remote people never directly “missionized,” the Urapmin began in the 1960s to send young men to study with Baptist missionaries living among neighboring communities. By the late 1970s, the Urapmin had undergone a charismatic revival, abandoning their traditional religion for a Christianity intensely focused on human sinfulness and driven by a constant sense of millennial expectation. Exploring the Christian culture of the Urapmin, Joel Robbins shows how its preoccupations provide keys to understanding the nature of cultural change more generally. In so doing, he offers one of the richest available anthropological accounts of Christianity as a lived religion. Theoretically ambitious and engagingly written, his book opens a unique perspective on a Melanesian society, religious experience, and the very nature of rapid cultural change.


Robbins, J. (2005a). Introduction – Humiliation and Transformation: Marshall Sahlins and the Study of Cultural Change in Melanesia. In The Making of Global and Local Modernities in Melanesia, edited by J. Robbins & H. Wardlow, pp 43–56. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Authored by well-established and respected scholars, this work examines the kinds of efforts that have been made to adopt Western modernity in Melanesia and explores the reasons for their varied outcomes. The contributors take the work of Professor Marshall Sahlins as a starting point, assessing his theories of cultural change and of the relationship between cultural intensification and globalizing forces. They acknowledge the importance of Sahlins’ ideas, while refining, extending, modifying and critiquing them in light of their own first-hand knowledge of Pacific island societies. Also presenting one of Sahlins’ less widely available original essays for reference, this book is an exciting contribution to serious anthropological engagement with Papua New Guinea.


Robbins, J.  (2005b). The Humiliation of Sin: Christianity and the Modernization of the Subject among the Urapmin. In The Making of Global and Local Modernities in Melanesia, edited by J. Robbins and H. Wardlow, pp. 43–57. Aldershot: Ashgate.


Robbins, J. (2009a). Conversion, Hierarchy, and Cultural Change: Value and Syncretism in the Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. In Rio, Knut M. & Smedal, Olaf H (Eds.) Hierarchy: Persistence and Transformation in Social Formations. Oxford/New York, Berghahn Books.

Louis Dumont’s concept of hierarchy continues to inspire social scientists. Using it as their starting point, the contributors to this volume introduce both fresh empirical material and new theoretical considerations. On the basis of diverse ethnographic contexts in Oceania, Asia, and the Middle East they challenge some current conceptions of hierarchical formations and reassess former debates – of post-colonial and neo-colonial agendas, ideas of “democratization” and “globalization,” and expanding market economies – both with regard to new theoretical issues and the new world situation.


Robbins, J. (2009b). Pentecostal Networks and the Spirit of Globalization: On the Social Productivity of Ritual Forms. Social Analysis, 53(1), 55-66.

Pentecostal Christianity has in the last several decades demonstrated an ability to globalize with great speed and to flourish in social contexts of poverty and disorganization in which other social institutions have been unable to sustain themselves. This article asks why Pentecostalism should be so successful at institution building in harsh environments. I argue that this question is more fundamental than those scholars more often ask about the kinds of compensations that Pentecostalism provides for its adherents. I then draw on Collins’s theory of interaction ritual chains to suggest that it is Pentecostalism’s promotion of ritual to the center of social life that grounds its unusual institution-building capacity.


Robbins J, Stewart P.J., Strathern A, eds. (2001). Charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity in Oceania. J. Ritual Stud. 15(2), Special Issue.


Scott, M. W. (2005). “I Was Like Abraham”: Notes of the Anthropology of Christianity from the Solomon Islands. Ethnos, 70(1), 101-125.

This article offers a detailed exegesis of what I term the ethno-theology of Timothy Karu, a Solomon Islands Anglican whose understanding of the nature of his matrilineage is informed by the Pauline account of the election of Israel. The analysis suggests a non-essentialising treatment of Christianity that nevertheless demonstrates how Solomon Islanders engage simultaneously with multiple interlocking macro and micro Christian logics in ways that aspire to systematicity. The starting point for this analysis is the identification of an unacknowledged tension between the approaches of John Barker and Joel Robbins, two influential anthropologists of Christianity whose work reflects a wider divide between anti-essentialism and cultural analysis in current anthropology. The article contributes to an overall rapprochement between these two orientations within the anthropology of Christianity. Keywords:Christianity, Melanesia, anti-essentialism, cultural logic, ontology


Stewart, P. & A. Strathern (eds). (2000a). Arrow Talk: Transaction, Transition, and Contradiction in New Guinea Highlands History. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press.

Arrow Talk makes a significant contribution to the understanding of Melanesian culture and contemporary sociopolitical issues in Papua New Guinea. In a post-modern era in which culture has been dismissed by many anthropologists as a reification, this book makes a cogent argument for cultural holism by showing how symbolic, psychological, religious, and linguistic factors have combined to shape Melpa responses to the political and economic crises they have had to face in the waning years of the millennium. This analysis also contributes notably to the development of anthropological perspectives on colonial and postcolonial historical processes. Since the Melpa face many of the same challenges as other “modernizing” people in the Pacific and elsewhere, Strathern and Stewart’s insights are valuable for scholars working on similar problems in a variety of ethnographic regions


Stewart, P. & A. Strathern (eds). (2000b). Introduction: Latencies and Realizations in Millennia Practices. In Millennial Countdown in New Guinea. Ethnohistory, 47(1), Special Issue.

In parts of the world where Christianity and indigenous practices have been integrated into hybrid religions, the advent of the new millennium produced an immense stir. “Millennial Countdown in New Guinea” provides a unique set of studies based on recent fieldwork that deal with perceptions of the new millennium in New Guinea. The articles collected here represent a rich ethnographic record of events leading up to the new millennium, exploring “end times” versus “new world” notions among New Guinea societies. Unlike other published collections on New Guinea, this special issue of Ethnohistory focuses on the entire island, with essays on both Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea. It makes a distinguished contribution to a classic theme in anthropology and the history of religion.


Stewart, P. & A. Strathern (eds). (2000c). Identity Work: Constructing Pacific Lives. Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania Monograph Series No. 18. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Part 1, titled ‘Self Changes’, includes essays on how individual women have negotiated their personal development in social fields of constraints and opportunities created by rapid social change. Barbara McGrath presents Alisi’s story, detailing her ambitions and frustrations in resisting pressures to conform to traditional Tongan norms of marriage and family life, and the compromises she eventually feels compelled to make. Stewart and Strathern tell of two women of the Papua New Guinea Highlands, Konda and Yara (a daughter of the famous big man Ongka), who turn to the new charismatic churches in their efforts to escape the restrictions of their traditional ‘gendered existence’, especially polygynous marriage. In church activities they achieve new and respected roles. Indeed their life choices illustrate ‘the immense contemporary significance of these churches and their influence on the shaping of biography, history, and personhood in Hagen today’ (57).


Strathern, M. (1988). The gender of the Gift, Berkeley: University of California Press.

In the most original and ambitious synthesis yet undertaken in Melanesian scholarship, Marilyn Strathern argues that gender relations have been a particular casualty of unexamined assumptions held by Western anthropologists and feminist scholars alike. The book treats with equal seriousness—and with equal good humor—the insights of Western social science, feminist politics, and ethnographic reporting, in order to rethink the representation of Melanesian social and cultural life. This makes The Gender of the Gift one of the most sustained critiques of cross-cultural comparison that anthropology has seen, and one of its most spirited vindications.


Thorarensen, H. (2011). Heal, Pray, Prosper. Practice and Discourse within a Local Pentecostal Church in Vanuatu. Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Bergen.

Pentecostal Christianity has been depicted as a leading globalizing force, while simultaneously opening up for the preservation of existing cultural forms. In this thesis I explore the relation between the local and the global in the context of a local independent Pentecostal Church in the island nation of Vanuatu in the South West Pacific. The church is called the Survival Church and has branches throughout the country, my fieldwork being based within two of these branches; one on the island of Nguna and the other in Vanuatu’s capital Port Vila. The main focus of this thesis is on the interplay and frictions between the local and the global; more specifically how this particular local church reacts and relates to global flows and external influences, in particular the global Pentecostal movement. The Survival Church’s history goes all the way back to colonization and the arrival of the first missionaries, and the church has a specific way of breaking with the past and developing their own form of localized Christianity. At the same time, the church is also connected to more recent developments of particularly the global Pentecostal movement. The church’s relation to healing and sorcery may be seen to simultaneously incorporate both local and global practices and discourses. On a different level, the Survival Church is also influenced by global neoliberal capitalism. Pentecostalism, as will become clear, has a strong focus on what is considered correct Christian morality and belief in order to attain economic profit; a more mysterious” approach to earning money, which can be seen to be influenced by neoliberal ideas. The implications of changes in economic thinking, combined with traditional Melanesian views on value, reciprocity and sharing are among the questions that are explored in this thesis. A central argument is that although the church opens up to new arenas of collectivity and financial accumulation for its members, this may conversely lead to an ambivalent situation for the people involved.


Winch-Dummett, C. (2010). Christianity and Cultural Reconfigurations in South West Pentecost. Oceania, 80(1), 78-101.

This paper examines the cultural impact of the introduction and evolution of Christianity in south west Pentecost, Vanuatu from the late 19th century to the 21st century. In particular it offers an explanation for the success and sustainability of Christianity due to the willingness of local individuals and communities to seize the new world view; and their welcome of Christianity’s capacity to provide principles for appropriate social behaviour, opportunities for individual spiritual salvation, and the potential for temporal achievement. It acknowledges novel conduits to power and prestige emerging from socio-cultural reconfigurations consequential to the tensions between Christianity and kastom in the 20th century, and scrutinizes the manner in which Christians in the 21st century have capitalised on kastom in their response to the pressures and demands of globalization. Keywords: Vanuatu; Christianity; kastom; cultural change; globalisation.


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