The Christianity of Culture: Conversion, Ethnic Citizenship, by Liana Chua

By Liana Chua

Lately, anthropologists have more and more considered Christian conversion as a kind of rupture from the prior. yet what occurs if the folks with whom they paintings start to converse a language of continuity and sameness with that prior? during this richly contextualized research, Liana Chua explores how a principally Christian Bidayuh group has been reconfiguring its courting to its outdated animist rituals during the trope and politics of "culture." putting her ethnography in discussion with advancements within the nascent anthropology of Christianity, Chua argues that such efforts at 'continuity conversing' are the product not just of Malaysian cultural politics, but additionally of conversion and Christianity itself. This ebook invitations students to reconsider the character and scope of conversion, in addition to the multifarious, but special, types that Christianity can take.

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Extra info for The Christianity of Culture: Conversion, Ethnic Citizenship, and the Matter of Religion in Malaysian Borneo (Contemporary Anthropology of Religion)

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Bidayuh Matters: People, Places, and Fieldwork This book is not a comprehensive survey of “the Bidayuh” but a particular portrait of a Bidayuh community at a particular point in time. Before outlining its content, however, I would like to linger on a few features of Bidayuh life and my fieldwork that will lend shape, color, and analytical salience to the chapters that follow. 10 My doctoral fieldwork took place over 14 months from 2004 to 2005 and has since been supplemented by once- or twice-yearly visits of between two weeks to three months from 2006 to 2010, as well as regular trips to the Singai region (2003–2010) and more recent work (2007–2010) in four villages in the Padawan area: Taba Sait, Pain Bojong, Semban Teleg, and Rejoi.

This brings us to an important methodological and analytical point. In the following chapters, the village will crop up constantly as a conceptual and descriptive unit. By using it thus, I do not mean to reify Kampung Benuk as that artificially bounded, homogeneous Village of classical ethnography, but to mirror my acquaintances’ own tendency to talk about it as a distinctive place and their key unit of corporate identity and belonging. During fieldwork, I was struck by their manifest keenness to assert how different Bidayuh communities were from each other—and, by implication, how much better Benuk was than anywhere else.

They thus have the “object-dissolving” (Robbins 2003: 193) effect of subtracting everything Christian from Christian conversion, including the fact that it can “impose some radically new sociocultural models on [its adherents] . . in ways that are broadly comparable cross-culturally” (Whitehouse 2006: 296). To redress this perceived imbalance, Robbins advocates a return to theologies, meanings, ideal models, and structures—in short, to Christianity as a culture and “a meaningful system in its own right” (Robbins 2004: 3), which is able to “hold its shape as its travels” (Robbins 2001a: 7–8).

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