Accepted paper:

Wondering encounters? A conversation between Western scientific and Fijian Pentecostal cosmologies


Rachel Morgain (Australian National University)

Paper short abstract:

In an imagined conversation between the refigured dualisms of Fijian Pentecostal Christianity and a multivalent Western astronomy, I show how these flip current anthropological expectations of ‘Western’ and ‘indigenous’ ontologies, and some implications this holds for an anthropology of wonder.

Paper long abstract:

What happens when our cosmologies are other than we say they are? In 'To be a wonder', Michael Scott observes the tendency in which what he calls 'non-dualist' ontologies are frequently cited as foils against seemingly Western Cartesian dualism, often privileged as essentially more ethical, open and wondering. In this paper, I imagine a conversation between proponents of two ontologies that flip our expectations of 'Western' and 'indigenous' ontologies: the dualism of Fijian Pentecostal Christianity, and the multivalent cosmological fields of contemporary (Western) astronomy. Proponents of 'the ontological turn' have foregrounded the non-dualist configurations of emergent scientific practice in the West, but continue to see these as marginal to a 'mainstream' Western science steeped in Cartesian dualisms - as demanding wider explication, even advocacy, from scientists and their anthropologist allies. In this paper, I ask whether these cosmologies are really so marginal to Western knowledge practices, and concomitantly, what is at stake in reading the dualism of Pentecostalism as a wonder-filled engagement among Fiji Islanders. To what extent does our devotion to those cosmologies Scott glosses as 'non-dualist' risk privileging Western science once again, while effacing the deep (re)figurings of dualist cosmologies among 'non-Western' peoples?

panel Rel01
The social formation of wonder