Rescuing Honiara, rescuing Gwou’ulu: negotiating frictional village–town relations and politico-religious (dis)unity in Solomon Islands

Stephanie Hobbis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Speaking to debates about the management of difference in and between towns and villages as well as secondary conversions and breakaway movements in Melanesia, this article examines the efforts of an Anglican village church to maintain social cohesion through politico-religious unity in Gwou’ulu, a multi-clan village in North Malaita, Solomon Islands, and its urban enclaves in Honiara. It focuses on an Anglican “rescue mission” that Gwou’ulu sends annually to Honiara to remind their urban relatives about the values, interests and priorities of their ancestral Anglican home. An analysis of this “rescue mission” and the controversies that surround it reveals an ongoing struggle between villagers for the politico-religious future of the village within and beyond its immediate geographic boundaries. Gwou’ulu villagers are increasingly questioning the capacity of the Anglican church and its leaders to provide stability in urban–rural insecurities, and, as a result, have begun breaking away from mainstream Anglicanism in a quest for alternative social and moral orders untainted by their religious leaders’ apparent spiritual impurity and even corrupt behaviours. By distancing themselves from Anglicanism as the force that has meant to unify the village since its inception as a Christian refuge in the early twentieth century, Gwou’ulu villagers then not only break away but also apart, exaggerating rural frictions with and alienations from (urban) modernity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-456
JournalJournal of the Polynesian Society
Volume128
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2019

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