Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society

Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society

Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society

Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society

Synopsis

"A major contribution to the understanding of cultural change by means of a remarkable ethnographic study of a Melanesian Christianity. Robbins is very unusual among his generation in being able to walk the walk of the most trendy Deep Thinkers without having to talk their talk."--Marshall Sahlins, Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and of Social Sciences, The University of Chicago

"Robbins's excellence as an ethnographer and theoretician is beautifully demonstrated in his book, Becoming Sinners, a ground-breaking ethnography of the interrelations between competing moral discourses in a context of rapid cultural change. One of the most significant contributions of this manuscript is that Robbins has combined a strong humanities orientation in a work on religion and morality with powerful social science methodology. This book will be a major milestone."--Bambi Schieffelin, author of "The Give and Take of Everyday Life: Language Socialization of Kaluli Children

Excerpt

Despite the impression the preceding prologue might have left one with, the Urapmin have not been Christian for very long. They are a small group of roughly 390 people living in a remote part of the far western highlands of Papua New Guinea. With their territory situated in the Sandaun Province, the Urapmin are linguistically and culturally part of the Mountain Ok or Min group of cultures, a group that has become well known in anthropological circles for the mythical and ritual complexity of its traditional religions. As recently as the early 1970s, anthropologists who studied traditional religions in the Min region produced some of the most impressive accounts of indigenous religious life in the contemporary anthropological literature (Barth 1975, 1987; Gardner 1981; Jones 1980; Jorgensen 1981b; Poole 1976). These scholars described daily lives dominated by the demands of extraordinarily elaborate men's initiation systems and the secret mythologies and large number of taboos that framed them. 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. Though the revival had its most proximate origin in . . .

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