Moses in Melanesia: political theology and corpus mysticum in anthropology

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In this article, I offer a conceptual framework for ethnographic and theoretical investigations into the importance of the body of Christ (corpus mysticum) in shaping societal formations. Addressing gaps in the anthropology of Christianity, particularly its focus on individual connections to God, I turn attention to collectives formed through participation in the body of Christ. Examining evangelical practices on Malaita, a key island in the Solomon Islands, I explore how spiritual bonds with biblical Israel shape perceptions of the nation as a unified mystical body. The study highlights the importance they attribute to Moses sealing the covenant, revealing that nation-building extends beyond individual experiences through the mystery of the body of Christ. To conceptualise this, I draw on Ernst Kantorowicz’s medieval notion of the mystical body, urging a re-evaluation of political theology within the field of the anthropology of religion to encompass theological mysteries.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2024


  • Anthropology of religion
  • Melanesia
  • mystery
  • state-building
  • theocracy
  • theology


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