Matt Tomlinson

Matt Tomlinson is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in Anthropology in the College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University. He has conducted research in Fiji, New Zealand and Sāmoa on the topics of language, politics, ritual and Christianity. He is author of In God’s Image: The Metaculture of Fijian Christianity (2009) and Ritual Textuality: Pattern and Motion in Performance (2014), and he has co-edited volumes including The Limits of Meaning: Case Studies in the Anthropology of Christianity(with Matthew Engelke, 2006) and Christian Politics in Oceania (with Debra McDougall, 2013).

New Mana »

Transformations of a Classic Concept in Pacific Languages and Cultures

‘Mana’, a term denoting spiritual power, is found in many Pacific Islands languages. In recent decades, the term has been taken up in New Age movements and online fantasy gaming. In this book, 16 contributors examine mana through ethnographic, linguistic, and historical lenses to understand its transformations in past and present. The authors consider a range of contexts including Indigenous sovereignty movements, Christian missions and Bible translations, the commodification of cultural heritage, and the dynamics of diaspora. Their investigations move across diverse island groups—Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Hawai‘i, and French Polynesia—and into Australia, North America and even cyberspace. A key insight that the volume develops is that mana can be analysed most productively by paying close attention to its ethical and aesthetic dimensions. Since the late nineteenth century, mana has been an object of intense scholarly interest. Writers in many fields including anthropology, linguistics, history, religion, philosophy, and missiology have long debated how the term should best be understood. The authors in this volume review mana’s complex intellectual history but also describe the remarkable transformations going on in the present day as scholars, activists, church leaders, artists, and entrepreneurs take up mana in new ways.