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Critical Christianity

Translation and Denominational Conflict in Papua New Guinea

Courtney Handman (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 328 pages
ISBN: 9780520283763
November 2014
$29.95, £22.95
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In Critical Christianity, Courtney Handman analyzes the complex and conflicting forms of sociality that Guhu-Samane Christians of rural Papua New Guinea privilege and celebrate as “the body of Christ.” Within Guhu-Samane churches, processes of denominational schism—long relegated to the secular study of politics or identity—are moments of critique through which Christians constitute themselves and their social worlds. Far from being a practice of individualism, Protestantism offers local people ways to make social groups sacred units of critique. Bible translation, produced by members of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, is a crucial resource for these critical projects of religious formation. From early interaction with German Lutheran missionaries to engagements with the Summer Institute of Linguistics to the contemporary moment of conflict, Handman presents some of the many models of Christian sociality that are debated among Guhu-Samane Christians. Central to the study are Handman's rich analyses of the media through which this critical Christian sociality is practiced, including language, sound, bodily movement, and everyday objects. This original and thought-provoking book is essential reading for students and scholars of anthropology and religious studies.
List of Illustrations

1. Sacred Speakers or Sacred Groups: The Colonial Lutheran Church in New Guinea
2. Linguistic Locality and the Anti-Institutionalism of Evangelical Christianity: The Summer Institute of Linguistics
3. Translating Locality: The Ethno-Linguistics of Christian Critique

4. Revival Villages: Experiments in Christian Social and Spatial Groups
5. The Surprise of Speech: Disorder, Violence, and Christian Language after the Men’s House

6. Events of Translation: Intertextuality and Denominationalist Change
7. Mediating Denominational Disputes: Land Claims and the Sound of Christian Critique
8. Kinship, Christianity, and Culture Critique: Learning to Be a Lost Tribe of Israel in Papua New Guinea

Courtney Handman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.
"Handman offers a careful analysis of the doings and sayings of New Life Christians."—L. Lindstrom CHOICE
"Courtney Handman’s Critical Christianity...display[s] some of the best work being done right now in the anthropology of Christianity."—Marginalia, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Critical Christianity deserves to be read widely beyond its immediate audience of scholars of language, Christianity, and Melanesia for the way it both opens up, and begins to answer, fresh questions about critique and sociality, translation and ritual semiosis, and intersections between anthropology and theology."—Oceania
"Handman provides an important new perspective on how Christianity might be considered not merely the object of critique but also a space for and means of social and cultural critique."—American Anthropologist
Critical Christianity is a rich, thought-provoking, innovative, and very well-written work. Handman gives us an acute ethnographic account of Guhu-Samane history and society and makes a compelling, subtly grounded argument that illuminates both the local specificities of Waria history, society, and religious life and a revelatory new perspective on Christianity more broadly. Her work resonates with other remarkable scholarship on translation and mission history, especially in the Pacific.”—Donald L. Brenneis, Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz

“This is a very smart and original formulation of and response to a number of central debates in the anthropology of religion. In particular, Handman systematically examines how Protestantism, and its various global and local iterations, highlights the complex and often contradictory notions of the individual/social in relevant scholarly literature and on the ground among the Guhu-Samane of Papua New Guinea, for whom these issues play a central organizing role in their lives. The scholarship here is sophisticated and theoretically provocative and pushes the reader to think.”—Bambi B. Schieffelin, Collegiate Professor and Professor of Anthropology at New York University

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