Christianizing language and the dis-placement of culture in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea

Bambi B. Schieffelin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Highlighting the language ideologies and speech practices critical to missionization, this paper examines the introduction of evangelical Christianity in Bosavi, Papua New Guinea, and its uptake in local communities. It analyzes the mission’s linguistic and cultural ideologies—valorization of the vernacular language, rejection of cultural practices— and the consequences of these opposing valences. It details Bosavi pastors’ mediation and transmission of these ideologies through their translating practices, showing how local interpretations produced innovation in linguistic categories and transformation of cultural repertoires. I argue that this perspective contributes to continuity and discontinuity debates in the anthropology of Christianity. This paper also details how this mission’s tropes of division and separation and oppositional binaries when translated in Bosavi provided the linguistic categories that guided Bosavi Christians in reshaping the moral geographies of their communities. Finally, it addresses related shifts in the local significance of place and emplaced experiences more broadly, what I call “dis-placement,” the result of mission initiatives carried out by local pastors through which relationships between persons, activities, memory, and place become transformed and lose their meaning.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)S226-S237
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Anthropology
    • Archaeology


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