New Books Network

Christian theologians in the Pacific Islands see culture as the grounds on which one understands God. In God is Samoan: Dialogues Between Culture and Theology...

Christian theologians in the Pacific Islands see culture as the grounds on which one understands God.

In God is Samoan: Dialogues Between Culture and Theology in the Pacific (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2020), Matt Tomlinson engages in an anthropological conversation with the work of “contextual theologians,” exploring how the combination of Pacific Islands’ culture and Christianity shapes theological dialogues.

The book presents a symphony of voices—engaged, critical, prophetic—from the contemporary Pacific’s leading religious thinkers and suggests how their work articulates with broad social transformations in the region.

In this episode of the podcast Matt talks to host Alex Golub about contextual theology’s use of concepts of ‘dialogue’ and ‘culture’ to develop an authentically Christian anthropology.

They also discuss how this theology contributes to anthropological understandings of language. Finally, Matt discusses the complexities of his multisited fieldwork, including engaging with Christian communities when he was not a committed believer, and what role white anthropologists have to play in listening to and amplifying the voices of Pacific Islanders.

Matt Tomlinson is an associate professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo, where he studies religion and language in the Pacific. He is the author of Ritual Textuality: Pattern and Motion in Performance and the co-editor of the volumes New Mana: Transformations of a Classic Concept in Pacific Languages and Cultures and Christian Politics in Oceania.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is the author of the article “Welcoming the New Amateurs: A future (and past) for non-academic anthropologists” as well as other books and articles.