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People and Change in Indigenous Australia$
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Diane Austin-Broos and Francesca Merlan

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824867966

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824867966.001.0001

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We’re Here to Worship God

We’re Here to Worship God

Aboriginal Christians and the Political Dimensions of Personhood

(p.146) Chapter 8 We’re Here to Worship God
People and Change in Indigenous Australia

Carolyn Schwarz

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter considers the ways that personhood is experienced, staged, and politicized in the weekly Sunday services of the Galiwin’ku Uniting Church. Central to the discussion are the tensions between a kin-based social order—vestige of the hunting-gathering way of life—and a bureaucratic order that emerged with mission station life and the requirements of the state, institutional church, and market society. I argue that the particular dynamics of the Sunday services, including the thematic content as well as the roles, statuses, sequences, and the relations that are involved, work on the one hand to facilitate individual ways of being and the centralization of authority, and on the other hand, to continue relational ways of being and the dispersal of authority. I examine how these oppositional tendencies are brought to life in the same ritual space and even find some degree of stability. The chapter concludes with some comparative comments on the Galiwin’ku material in relation to discussions of personhood in the “anthropology of Christianity.”

Keywords:   personhood, Christianity, authority, relatedness, cultural change

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