After Papua New Guinea’s contact with the western world several western scholars turned their attention toward the indigenous population and showed a special interest in the cults that were formed afterward as well as the (following) conversions of almost all indigenous population to the Christian faith. While the majority of the literature focuses on this process either as an act of desperation or as one of calculation, this chapter focuses on the practices in the actual process of “becoming a Christian,” viewing them as expressions of self-change and thus offering a new perspective for understanding those changes. Drawing on and expanding interactionist ideas of dramatic self-change, this chapter identifies the practices used to portray that a change of identity has occurred. Data was gathered through the analysis of existing anthropological and ethnological work, which provides information about a broad range of tribes, yet is limited to the information provided by the respective researcher. The practices found are divided into practices which need not be secured, which demonstrate the acceptance of the new religion in a way that is usually not challenged (like public confessions, verbal denigration of the old tradition, integration into the new structure, adopting new symbols, and destroying the old) and practices that need to be secured, ones which might be regarded as odd (like dramatizing enlightenment) and thus need another way of accounting to secure them from being challenged.
I am grateful to my mentor Michael Dellwing for the fruitful discussions we had, from developing the idea to writing this chapter, especially his seemingly endless patience concerning my questions. I would also like to thank Lonnie Athens for his idea of putting my work into a new scope, John Johnson and especially Thaddeus Müller for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this chapter, making it more understandable and precise, and Lennart Lüdemann for accompanying me throughout the whole process, offering helpful comments and calmness.
Abermet, V. (2015), "“… And we have Lots of Food, so we Believe it is True” – Dramatizations of Self-Change in Papua New Guinea", Contributions from European Symbolic Interactionists: Conflict and Cooperation (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 45), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 99-117. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0163-239620150000045005Download as .RIS
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