Devils refined: pentecostal morality in Truku, Taiwan
Paper short abstract:
This research attempts to explore how Truku Pentecostal morality uses highly refined discourses of “weakness” and temptation by devils as a cognitive framework to cope with the uncertainty of a marginalised life in modern Taiwan.
Paper long abstract:
This paper seeks to address the ways in which Pentecostalism constructs, in its adherents, a worldview through the refinement of belief in devils. Scholars, like Meyer (1999) and Robbins (2010), note the tendency for Pentecostals to demonize pre-Christian cosmologies in relation to their Pentecostal world view as a foil against which to continually define the present. My research, conducted among Truku Pentecostals in Taiwan, attempts to extend this framework and explores how Pentecostal morality uses highly refined discourses of "weakness" and temptation by devils as a cognitive framework to understand the human responses to the arduous conditions of life in an indigenous Taiwanese community. Before colonisation Truku lived high in the central mountain range of Taiwan. However as their territory was colonised they endured dramatic social change as they were forced to leave their mountain homelands and settle on the coastal plains in communities arranged by the colonising powers. This displacement from the mountains undermined the terrestrial basis of traditional Truku cosmology as this cosmology was entirely imbedded in the very landscape of the mountains itself. Simultaneously Truku suffered a number of epidemics that could not be assuaged by their traditional beliefs. These conditions contributed to the mass conversion of Truku people to Christianity/Pentecostalism. Under these conditions Truku incorporated their traditional belief-system into their new Pentecostal beliefs as evil and demonic. In this combined cosmological order Truku elaborate ideas of devils and weakness in ways that enable them to cope with the uncertainty of a marginalised life in modern Taiwan.
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