Guest Lecture by Annelin Eriksen

Friday, November 3 at 10.00–11.00
Lecture Hall Janus at Sirkkala Campus (Kaivokatu 12)
University of Turku

Imagining the Christian Body in Melanesia: On Demons, Witches and Healing in Pentecostal Vanuatu (South West Pacific)

As the topic of this conference is the ways in which the human body gets imagined in different Christian cultures at different times, I, as an anthropologist, will contribute to this by first presenting what has become a key debate in the anthropology of Christianity in Melanesia, where I have done ethnographic work for over two decades. This debate concerns the extent to which Melanesians, when they become Christian, also develop a Christian notion of the individual, where the body is subordinate to the mind. I will then disturb this debate by reflecting more closely on the notion of the body and the concept of the individual in relation to my most recent ethnographic work with Pentecostal healers in the capital of Port Vila in the archipelago of Vanuatu, in the South West Pacific. I show how the process of healing involves imagining the body as open to both malevolent and benevolent spiritual forces that can act on the body without the willful interference of the patient him/herself, opening the person for the Holy Spirit in one moment but turning a person into a demon or a witch the next. With this ethnography, I ask what the unstable body does to the notion of the Christian individual.

Annelin Eriksen, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Bergen

Annelin Eriksen is professor of Social Anthropology at the Unviersity of Bergen, Norway. She has worked in Vanuatu, in the South West Pacific, since 1995. Her main research interests are gender, social and cultural change and Christianity.

The conference is organised by the Turku Institute for Advanced Studies (TIAS), the Centre for the Study of Christian Cultures (CSCC) and the Turku Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (TUCEMEMS).