Barker, “Secondary Conversion”

Barker, John. 2012. Secondary Conversion and the Anthropology of Christianity in Melanesia. Archives de sciences sociales des religions. 157(1):67-87.

Abstract: Anthropologists have in recent years turned their attention to Christianity in Melanesia. Much of this new work treats Melanesian Christianity in terms of the confrontation between indigenous “tradition” and global “modernity”. However useful for long-term analysis, such dualistic framing distorts our understanding of the present, which is instead characterized by growing sectarianism and secondary conversions. I call for three changes in the ways anthropologists typically approach contemporary Melanesian Christianity. First, we need to understand secondary conversion primarily in historical terms, as a shift from localized forms of Christianity to newly introduced ones. Second, more attention needs to be paid to the lively forms of Christianity emerging in urban areas. Finally, I suggest that the domination of anthropology in the social science of Melanesia creates its own distorting lens and other disciplinary viewpoints should be encouraged and incorporated.