Matt Tomlinson: "God Is Samoan: Dialogues between Anthropology and Theology in the Pacific Islands"

Departmental Seminar Series features Matt Tomlinson, Associate Professor in the Department of Social Anthropology, Univ of Oslo.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!


Christian theologians in the Pacific Islands pay close attention to culture, seeing it as the grounds on which one understands God and engages in dialogue with others. In this seminar, I engage with the work of these scholars, asking how the combination of culture theory and indigenous theology opens up new conversations while limiting others. The kinds of dialogues in which Pacific theologians engage, I suggest, range from radical critiques of biblical stories as inappopriate for Pacific audiences to celebrations of traditional gods such as Tagaloa as essentially Christian figures. In the seminar presentation, I will present material from two chapters in my forthcoming book, one on dialogues between readers and texts and one on environmental/ecological theology and the theme of the 'disturbed sea'.

Research profile

After receiving his PhD in 2002, Matt Tomlinson taught at Bowdoin College, Monash University, and then became a lecturer at Australian National University's College of Asia and the Pacific. Tomlinson is currently Associate Professor in Social Anthropology at the University of Oslo.

Tomlinson’s areas of expertise are Social and Cultural Anthropology, Linguistic Anthropology, Other Language, Communication and Culture, Religion and Religious Studies.

Tomlinson has conducted fieldwork on Christianity, language, and politics in Fiji since the mid-1990s, and undertaken research in New Zealand and Samoa on the development of indigenous Christian theologies. His current project “Social Engagement in Spiritualism” is a three-year (2017-2019) investigation of the sociological, anthropological, and historical dimensions of Spiritualism in Australia, a small but highly influential religious movement. Ideas about the afterlife that Spiritualism introduced to Australia in the 19th century have shaped many citizens’ beliefs that individual personality survives death in a family-centered spirit realm.

Tomlinson is the author of “Ritual Textuality: Pattern and Motion in Performance” (2014), “God's Image: The Metaculture of Fijian Christianity” (2009) and coeditor of several volumes including Christian Politics in Oceania (with Debra McDougall, 2013). Publications

Published Dec. 21, 2018 9:26 AM - Last modified Aug. 8, 2019 3:35 PM