The power of place: Spatio-temporality of a Melanesian religious movement
Over the years, several different renewal movements within Christianity have had a significant impact on Melanesian societies and cultures. In people’s aspirations for total transformation, however, there has often appeared one insurmountable obstacle: a firm bond between being and place. The Ambonwari people of the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea have faced the same problem since the Catholic charismatic movement reached the village in December 1994. Their cosmology and social organization have always been inseparable from their paths (journeys, marriages, exchanges, adoptions) and places (places of mythological ancestors, old and new villages, places of other groups, places for processing sago, fishing places, taboo places, camps), and their historicity was primarily perceived and defined in terms of place. The adherents of the Catholic charismatic movement attempt to abolish their emplaced past, transcend their territorial boundaries, and simultaneously modify their places. Because Ambonwari cosmology dealt with multiple spatio-temporalities, however, Catholic charismatic leaders find it difficult to undermine this diversity. It is this multiplicity of emplaced historicities that troubles them most and not simply time per se.