Political and religious conversions in the Pacific

Fraser Macdonald (University of Waikato)
Michael Goldsmith (University of Waikato)
Napier G03
Start time:
12 December, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

'Conversion' represents the shifting of states of mind, agency, power, personhood, social order and political rule. We invite historical and/or ethnographic analyses that address these modes of shifting with particular reference to indigenous peoples in the Pacific, including Australia.

Long abstract:

As a result of the incorporation of Western cultural forms, human life within Pacific societies have been profoundly altered. More specifically, with the arrival of Christianity and Western legal and governmental institutions, Pacific lifeworlds have come to be governed by a host of new figures, forces, laws, norms, and ontologies. Through the influence of Christianity, local people have reshaped their lives around God, Satan, Jesus, and the Bible, have been forced to revalue their traditions, and arguably now approximate the possessive individualism of 'the West'. Similarly, through colonial and post-colonial government, Pacific peoples have been compelled to reimagine their lives in terms of Western legal and political institutions, often radically changing what is and is not permitted, the distribution and use of power, as well as the nature of leadership. In this panel, we seek to interrogate these shifts through the broadly conceived lens of 'conversion'. What convinces, compels, or coerces people to 'convert' to new religious and political frameworks? Are religious and political conversions ever total or are they mediated by and reproduce existing cultural schemes? Do missionisation and colonisation ever operate in tandem or do they sometimes function separately or compete with each other? How are the differences and similarities between religious and political institutions understood locally? Do the moral dictates of Christianity ramify, depart from, or even replace the legal frameworks established by colonial and post-colonial governments? We invite historically and ethnographically focussed papers that consider these themes and questions within the wider Pacific, including Australia.