Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 1998
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania
Voice and Earth: Making Religious Meaning and Power in Christian Fiji

Rural Fijians, like many peoples, claim "traditional" identities as Christians; yet they also publicly construct a "traditional" past wherein non-Christian ancestors committed deeds which threaten the happiness and health of their descendants. In addition, rural Fijians express wariness at the perceived immorality of urban Fiji and particular lands (Europe, Australia, the United States) beyond. The Methodist Church mediates these temporal and moral-geographical disjunctures for rural Fijians since particular Methodist rituals are used to negate the dangers of the past and the Methodist Church is one of the crucial elements of morally valued "village life." This project addresses the Fijian Methodist Church's curious dual role as a defender against malign elements of "tradition" and as a "traditional" moral emblem, and asks whether being "anti-traditional" is considered the same as being "modern." Religious speech-is the focus of this investigation because it is a concrete, analytically accessible activity through which rural Fijians address topics such as history, locality, and morality--topics which, I argue, are central to local understandings and evaluations of "tradition."