Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua by Joel Robbins

By Joel Robbins

In a global of speedy and sweeping cultural modifications, few have obvious alterations as speedy and dramatic as these skilled by way of the Urapmin of Papua New Guinea within the final 4 a long time. A distant humans by no means without delay "missionized," the Urapmin started within the Sixties to ship younger males to check with Baptist missionaries residing between neighboring groups. by means of the past due Seventies, the Urapmin had gone through a charismatic revival, leaving behind their conventional faith for a Christianity intensely fascinated by human sinfulness and pushed via a relentless experience of millennial expectation. Exploring the Christian tradition of the Urapmin, Joel Robbins indicates how its preoccupations supply keys to figuring out the character of cultural swap extra mostly. In so doing, he deals one of many richest to be had anthropological bills of Christianity as a lived faith. Theoretically bold and engagingly written, his ebook opens a different viewpoint on a Melanesian society, non secular adventure, and the very nature of fast cultural change.

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Extra info for Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society (Ethnographic Studies in Subjectivity, 4)

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Their reports suggested that these religious systems, despite what had been by then several decades of colonization, had remained robust and continued to define the meaningful parameters of life for everyone in the region. Yet by the early 1990s, the period of my fieldwork, the Urapmin, like many of their neighbors, no longer practiced their traditional religion. By their own account, they had not practiced it since 1977. That was the year that a Christian revival began to sweep through many of the groups in their region.

With the exception of two men who have spent the last ten years working in unskilled positions in Tabubil, a mining town in the Min region, all Urapmin make their way through life as subsistence gardeners. 1 Hence the “infrastructure” of Urapmin life hardly changed at all during the period that saw their rapid and thorough turn to Christianity. Indeed, if you went to Urapmin and did not listen to what people said but only watched what they did (and if in doing so you ignored the obviously Christian rituals they performed), Urapmin life in the early 1990s would look for all the world like it fit the stereotype of traditional Papua New Guinea village life.

As Friedman (1999: 247) points out, “The metaphor of mixture is flat. ” There is, as these commentators suggest, a real need to bring some order to the field by exploring the different types of relations cultures can contract with one another and the circumstances that push situations toward one type or another. The viability of such a project of ordering, and hence of an anthropology of globalization more generally, depends on the accomplishment of an even more fundamental task of developing a viable theory of how cultures change; a theory that both accounts for the causes of change and specifies the mechanisms by which it occurs (see LiPuma 2000: 89).

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