(Australian National University)
Paper Short Abstract:
This paper addresses the perceived limitations of Strathern's and Gell's formulations of the "partible" or "distributed person" with the introduction of a new historical actor, the "divine dividual" in the context of Christian conversion among Trobriand Islanders.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper I outline the aesthetic and agentive capacities of a new historical actor, the Divine Dividual. This elaboration of Marilyn Strathern's and Alfred Gell's classic formulations of the partible/dividual and distributed persons consists in a) an expansion of the gender-specific (i.e. same- and cross-sex) characterizations of personhood and sociality to encompass religious criteria of relative sanctity and profanity; and accordingly b) an enhancement of the scope of gift exchange to incorporate the forms and aesthetics of ritual qua artistic performance, specifically reciprocal sacrificial co-participations relating living humans to ancestral and other spirits. Ethnographically, the paper focuses upon the ritual dynamics and potentials for change which link several categories of divine dividuals in contemporary Trobriand sociality - those between living humans and indigenous and Christian spirits in processes of religious conversion.
Art and Personhood in the Historical Moment: Rethinking Gell and Strathern.