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Christian Politics in Oceania

Christian Politics in Oceania

Matt Tomlinson | Debra McDougall


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The phrase “Christian politics” evokes two meanings: political relations between denominations in one direction, and the contributions of Christian churches to debates about the governing of society. The contributors to this volume address Christian politics in both senses and argue that Christianity is always and inevitably political in the Pacific Islands. Drawing on ethnographic and historical research in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji, the authors argue that Christianity and politics have redefined each other in much of Oceania in ways that make the two categories inseparable at any level of analysis. The individual chapters vividly illuminate the ways in which Christian politics operate across a wide scale, from interpersonal relations to national and global interconnections.

Matt Tomlinson is currently an ARC Future Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific.

Debra McDougall is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia.

A key strength of the volume is its broad conception of ‘Christian politics’, understood both as the relations between Christian groups and the articulation between Christianity and wider societal structures… Its attention to scale, denominational difference and to the histories of colonial and postcolonial state formation in the region will provide a useful basis for further comparative work on Christian movements, both within the Pacific Islands and further afield.”  ·  Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale

The volume is refreshingly open and non-ideological...All the essays are detailed, thoughtful and considerably nuanced in their analyses. As such, the volume is a fine example of the emerging discipline of the anthropology of Christianity, finally not afraid to move into theology, history, psychology and sociology for a more complete analysis. Because of their common multi-disciplinary approach, the essays complement each other well.”  ·  Pacific Affairs

"From its first page, like all good anthropology, Christian Politics in Oceania challenges assumptions... The chapters…raise issues that are relevant to and important for Christianity and all religions. That a religion like Christianity is internally diverse; that it entangles with politics, traditional cultures, material objects and interests, and individual and collective divisions in society; and that it inevitably serves some governmental and 'state-like' functions are all points that anthropologists can profitably apply to all regions and to all religions."  ·  Anthropology Review Database

This is an edited volume that really works: path-breaking, sophisticated, ethnographically rich, epistemologically reflective in always illuminating and generative ways, with all of the constituent pieces speaking in fascinating and varied ways to key, shared themes of real value. The chapters all work together very well, and each is at the same time also distinctive in significant and often enjoyable waysGreat for the Pacific and well beyond.”  ·  Don Brenneis, University of California, Santa Cruz

This is an excellent book on a pivotal topic in the contemporary Pacific, where Christianity is routinely evoked in national politics, and where denominational differences both shape and emerge from local rivalries…[E]very contributor makes an argument, and each offers a range of propositions and insights that set the bar very high. This book will stand as the baseline and point of departure for subsequent efforts for some time to come.”  ·  Dan Jorgensen, University of Western Ontario