Singing it 'local'

The appropriation of Christianity in the Vula'a villages of Papua New Guinea

Deborah Van Heekeren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The Vula'a people of south-eastern Papua New Guinea have been Christians for more than a century. Through a phenomenology of the transformation of their song and dance styles, this paper sheds light on the nature of the engagement between globalising religions and localised practice. It draws attention to the importance of the appropriation of the Polynesian prophet songs (peroveta), initially as part of the process of conversion undertaken by the London Missionary Society, and presently as an expression of local Christian identity that is shaped by 'traditional' exigencies. Song connects the living community and extends the bounds of that community to the non-living, promoting an existential plenitude. I argue that the Christian song styles which replaced traditional dances reproduce a distinctly Melanesian ontology. Further, the instrumental position of early Polynesian mission teachers, both as agents for the new religion and their selfrepresentation as geographically distant 'kin' of the Vula'a problematises any easy division between the local and the global.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-59
Number of pages16
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011
Externally publishedYes

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