A Saturated History of Christianity and Cloth in Oceania

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Cloth and Christianity have long been seen as intimate partners in Oceania. The introduction of manufactured cloth—cambric,2 calico, chintz, linen, serge and silk—from the mills of Manchester and New England and the workshops of China, the cultivation of the arts of sewing, quilting and embroidery and the adoption of Western-style clothing: modest dresses for women, demure trousers or laplaps for men, have all become iconic of Oceanic Christianity. Integral to the “before and after” story of indigenous conversion is the narrative of how Oceanic Christians “covered up” beautiful bare breasts, exposed bottoms or penises previously proudly displayed. In the eyes of some scholars and popular observers Oceanic people thus succumbed to the colonial power of a Western Victorian model of gender and sexuality, characterised by heterosexual monogamy, modesty and sexual repression and the celebration of a novel form of domesticity focused on the faithful wife and good mother. She was allegedly both creator and creature of a “home,” bearing and nurturing children, cooking, cleaning, washing, sewing. Many scholars have challenged and complicated such stories from the perspective of Europe, North America, Africa and Asia: revealing the class, national and regional specificities in the emergence of ideals of “domesticity”; demonstrating how the realities of working women’s lives differed markedly from any idealised demarcations of a masculine public sphere and a feminine domestic sphere; arguing that these spheres were leaky rather than hermetically sealed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDivine Domesticities: Christian Paradoxes in Asia and the Pacific
    Editors Hyaeweol Choi and Margaret Jolly
    Place of PublicationCanberra, Australia
    PublisherANU Press
    ISBN (Print)9781925021943
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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