God speaking to God: Translation and unintelligibility at a Fijian Pentecostal crusade
Article first published online: 20 DEC 2012
© 2012 Australian Anthropological Society
The Australian Journal of Anthropology
Special Issue: Interlingual Articulations in Asia and the Pacific: Figuring Sociocultural Otherness through Otherness of Linguistic Codes. Guest Editors: Alan Rumsey & Rupert Stasch.
Volume 23, Issue 3, pages 274–289, December 2012
How to Cite
Tomlinson, M. (2012), God speaking to God: Translation and unintelligibility at a Fijian Pentecostal crusade. The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 23: 274–289. doi: 10.1111/taja.12001
- Issue published online: 20 DEC 2012
- Article first published online: 20 DEC 2012
In December 2008, a team of American Pentecostals visited Fiji and conducted ‘crusades’ in a public park. In this article, I show how a sermon and altar call at one of the performances modelled for listeners a particular quality of the believer's relation to the otherness of God, figured via linguistic otherness. The American preacher and his Fijian translator approached the event as a teaching opportunity. They explained to audience members how to pray for repentance and how to speak in tongues (glossolalia) and stated that when a person spoke in tongues, this was really the Holy Ghost ‘praying through’ a person. In glossolalia, the words are supposed to be semantically unintelligible, pointing to the otherworldly, even miraculous, fact of their utterance; but pragmatically, their utterance is supposed to manifest the Holy Ghost's presence in the speaker, and this presence is held to be the meaning that matters.