Creating Presence across Borders: Pilgrimages to Papua New Guinea’s Blessed Peter To Rot in Australia.

Activity: Talk or presentationPresentation


This paper engages with politics of ‘presence’ and ‘absence’ in the context of religious transnationalism. It looks at how migrants from Papua New Guinea (PNG) are ‘relocating’ PNG Catholic shrines and ritual celebrations to Australia in order to celebrate their National Patron Saint, the Blessed Peter To Rot. In relocating rituals, regalia and images associated with Peter To Rot, migrants generate ‘belonging’, as well as new connections and communities, fostered through the circulation of specific material religion. The paper will address how these materialities and associated rituals are meant to convey and mobilise the presence of the Blessed Peter To Rot, while his human remains, as well as his miraculous soil and water, are still in PNG, and hence, absent in the diaspora. This focus elucidates the community politics and tensions involved in ‘relocating’ shrines and establishing sacred presence in the diaspora, as well as the importance for local actors to create a religious and PNG national presence in the diaspora. What transpires is that religious rituals and regalia are an important source of national and political identity, as well as belonging for Catholic PNG descendants and migrants in Australia. This confirms observations made elsewhere that religion is at the centre of many migrants’ identities. Religious institutions, such as the Brisbane shrine dedicated to Peter To Rot, become a focal point for PNG migrant gatherings and opportunities to share and circulate knowledge and information. At the same time, it becomes a powerful space to mobilise both divine presence and the community towards political and moral intervention, both in the diaspora, and in the homeland.
Period23 Sept 2021
Event titlePilgrimage and the Politics of Presence and Absence: : Anthropological Horizons on Sacralizing Locality, Visibility and Invisibility in the Contemporary World
Event typeConference
LocationFranceShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational