Journal Article

Mana in Christian Fiji: The Interconversion of Intelligibility and Palpability

Matt Tomlinson

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 75, issue 3, pages 524-553
Published in print September 2007 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online August 2007 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Mana in Christian Fiji: The Interconversion of Intelligibility and Palpability

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How might religious discourse about powerlessness motivate practical strategies for gaining power? To answer this question, I analyze two events in Fiji, both explicitly violent and markedly Christian: the story of a murder committed by a man who wanted to become a Methodist minister and a threat of cannibalism by men who supported a coup d'état that was justified with reference to Fiji as a Christian nation. These events are best seen as responses to a common theme in indigenous Fijian religious discourse: the loss of mana (efficacy). This theme motivates the “interconversion” of these events between poles of intelligibility and palpability: palpable actions are transformed into intelligible products such as narratives; conversely, intelligible products are enacted. The cases of “good Christian” murder and cannibalism, I argue, reveal the transformative dynamics of religious discourse and suggest how claims about the loss of efficacy can be practically effective.

Journal Article.  9845 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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