Mobile Religion on Ancestral Ground: Rituals of Christian Conversion in the Western Solomon Islands

Authors

  • Debra McDougall University of Western Australia

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.v28i3.28943

Keywords:

ancestral religion, Christianity, conversion, ethnohistory, Pacific Islands

Abstract

Conversion to Christianity from an ancestral religion is often depicted as a move from a closed world of local spirits to a radically open world of a transcendent God. This article focuses on the Paci?c Islands, one of the most thoroughly Christian parts of the world, where people themselves often describe conversion as a move from a local to a global world. Drawing on ethnohistorical research conducted over a period of decades on the island of Ranongga in the Western Province of Solomon Islands, this article focuses on narratives about the arrival of Christianity and stories recounting the efforts of indigenous missionaries to establish Christianity in local places. It complicates a simple but compelling contrast between Christian universalism and ancestral localism by showing that many ancestral powers had themselves come from afar and new converts drew on old ritual techniques for conquering localized powers and installing their new God.

Author Biography

Debra McDougall, University of Western Australia

Debra McDougall is a Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Western Australia. She is the author of Engaging with Strangers: Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands (Berghahn, 2016) and coeditor with Matt Tomlinson of Christian Politics in Oceania (Berghahn, 2013).

Published

2016-01-18

How to Cite

McDougall, D. (2016). Mobile Religion on Ancestral Ground: Rituals of Christian Conversion in the Western Solomon Islands. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 28(3), 309–329. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.v28i3.28943