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Title:Church and society in Tuvalu
Author(s):Goldsmith, Michael Rowland
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Keller, Janet D.
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Religion, History of
Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:This dissertation analyzes consensus as exemplified in the Christian religion of Tuvalu (Central Pacific). It also examines that notion in Western social science, official descriptions, and missionary accounts and posits a strong ideological connection between these and indigenous communalism.
The Prologue describes the ethnographer's fieldwork and relations with pastors of the Tuvalu Church, the main Protestant denomination, on three of Tuvalu's nine islands. Chapter One asks why 95% of Tuvaluans adhere to the Church and what this apparent unanimity means. This leads to an appraisal of ideologies of consensus in social science and to a more detailed analysis of religious consensus in anthropology. The author's approach focuses on the public discourse of communalism, interpreted sui generis. Chapter Two describes various factors conducive to the development of such a discourse, analyzing communalism in the rhetoric of Tuvaluans and social scientists. Its status prior to European contact is examined through ethno-historical reconstruction and comparative studies of Polynesian social organization and religion.
Chapter Three argues against definitive explanations of Tuvaluan conversion. The historical record is patchy and the major sources--London Missionary Society accounts--are far from disinterested, as shown by the story of Elekana, the man officially credited with introducing the Gospel. Indigenous religious experimentation is contrasted with the imposition of mission hegemony. Chapter Four discusses how ecclesiastical control was established, by investigation the theory and practice of church government and church records. The resulting ideology of consensus is then demonstrated in relation to village section organization.
Chapter Five shows how a cultural grammar (cognate with Sahlins' "stranger-king" model) can modify and encompass an initially alien institution, the Church. Pastors ("visitor-chiefs") are embedded in complex and changing power relations defined by notions of chiefly status, the host-guest nexus, and community boundaries. The Conclusion addresses the substantive material of the earlier chapters by questioning conventional contrasts between myth and its supposed opposites, truth and history. It argues for the pervasiveness and necessity of myths in the mutual construction of a social order by Tuvaluans and outsiders.
Issue Date:1989
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Goldsmith, Michael Rowland
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI8924823
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI8924823

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