Gendered Power Church Melanesia (5-8 December 2012)

The Power of the Pacific: Values, Materials, Images (ESfO Conference)

Bergen December 5-8, 2012


Session 10. The Gendered Power of the Church in Melanesia

Organizer: Annelin Eriksen (University of Bergen)

Although the topic of Christianity is to some extent novel as a main focus in anthropological analysis
generally (Robbins 2007) and from the region in particular, Christianity has a long history in Melanesia
(Barker 1990). The church, whether it is a colonial mission church, an independent church or a new
Pentecostal church, is of fundamental importance for social organization on the village level as well as
for concepts of the nation and the state.
This session calls for papers that will enhance our understanding of the gendered dynamics of
churches in the Pacific. There has been an increasing focus the last couple of years on how
Christianity challenge established concepts of personhood (Robbins 2004), on the economic aspects
of this process (McDougall 2009), on the connection between ideas about money, nation and Christian
apocalypticism (Eves 2003), of the connection between Christianity and politics (McDougall and
Tomlinson forthcoming). These are all important contributions to an understanding of how Christianity
shapes new formations of personhood, ideas of nationhood and state forms. However, we have to a
lesser degree included the gendered dynamics of these processes in our analysis. This session encourages papers that both look at the concrete way in which gender relations affect church organization, how gendered roles and behavior in church enhance or challenge established gender relations. We also want to encourage a focus on how a gendered Christian discourse sets the premises for ideas of what a Christian community is, both at the level of single churches and at the level of the nation. In other words; we encourage a focus on ideas of what “the social” is in a Christian Melanesian world. How are ideas of nationhood, unity, and “new life” connected to fundamental constructions of gendered ideals within a Christian universe? For instance; to what extent are Christian gendered discourses connected to ideas of social order, of a morally good way of organizing social relations, of leadership and government. Might the idea of nationhood for instance be related to certain ideas of femininity; of fertility, motherhood, caring and nurturing, within a Christian cosmology?




1.Annelin Eriksen (University of Bergen)

Caring for the Christian nation: Gender and Christian nationalism in Vanuatu


  1. Alice Servy (CREDO, Marseille, France)

Church, gender and sexual health in Port-Vila : a comparative approach of SDA and Presbyterian churches’ sexual health programs in Seaside Tongoa area.


  1. Xandra Miguel Lorenzo (LSE)

The Power of the Sisters: Performing Personhood and New Forms of Relatedness in Solomon Islands.


  1. Hélène Nicola (CREDO, Marseille, France)

The Christian moral code of law as a new leadership. The case of Lifu, New-Caledonia (1842-1864) 


  1. John Barker (University of British Columbia)

The Mothers Union Goes on Strike: Gender Politics in a Papua New Guinea Village Church


  1. Craig Lind (University of St Andrews)


Henry has arisen: gender and hierarchy in Vanuatu’s Anglican Church



  1. Richard Eves (ANU, Canberra)

Governing men’s conduct: New forms of masculinity in Pentecostalism in New Ireland.


  1. Pascale Bonnetière (Aix-Marseille Université, CNRS, CREDO)

Consequences of the presence of Churches on gender relations in the Wonenara valley (Eastern Highlands Province, PNG).

Administered by: University of Bergen, Department of Social Anthropology, PO box: 7802, NO-5020 Bergen,
Phone: +47 55 58 92 50 , E-mail: