Landscapes of Faith: British Missionary Tourism in the South Pacific
The materiality of Europe’s encounter with the Pacific has only lately been addressed by scholars, and it has tended to focus on the collection and interpretation of material culture. Adrienne Kaeppler’s pioneering work on Captain Cook’s ethnographical collections has been enhanced by recent studies in the theory of museum acquisition and display, which emphasize the connection between collection and imperialism (Barringer and Flynn 1998; Coombes 1994; Kaeppler 1978; Pearce 1989). Anthropologist Nicholas Thomas has examined a range of these issues in the Pacific context, and included missionaries in his superb book Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific. In a chapter titled “Converted Artifacts: The Material Culture of Christian Missions,” Thomas underscores the mutability of material culture: objects can be exchanged, appropriated, or renounced and their significance transposed in what he calls “the dialectic of reification and consumption” (Thomas 1991, 176). This transposition can be described as conversion in the context of Christianization, not only because the meaning of objects is convertible, but because objects can be surrendered or reinvented as signs of conversion to Christianity. One example is indigenous clothing, which was given to missionaries (and others) after islanders began wearing European cloth.
KeywordsMaterial Culture Date Palm Tropical Island Colonial Discourse Spiritual Significance
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