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Passions and Purposes

Acting Faith and Nostalgia in New Caledonia

Matt K. Matsuda

As developed since the seventeenth century, the concept and experience of nostalgia has been linked to individuals or groups displaced from, and longing for, a distant site they consider to be “home.” Colonial historians have also noted that indigenous peoples, such as Australian Aborigines or the Kanak in New Caledonia, may suffer from “solastalgia,” that is, homesickness while “still at home” because they have been subjects with restricted rights on what was once their own territory. The thoughts and writings of Kanak seminarian and anticolonial activist Jean-Marie Tjibaou are analyzed to demonstrate the ways that Kanak communities have shaped locally rooted identities through traditions of genealogy to assert continuities in their own history. Special focus is given here to Tjibaou's seminary training and his appropriation of Biblical stories and teachings to make points about suffering, charity, nobility, and challenges to authority, both in staged passion plays and in Kanak versions of the Christian Word.