A Typology of Erasure
the involvement of evangelical missionaries in the generative spiritscapes of Torres Strait and southern central New Guinea
Agents of the London Missionary Society sought radical change in the worlds of Torres Strait Islanders and communities in southern central New Guinea. As they had elsewhere in Oceania, LMS agents buried, burned or collected powerful objects, destroyed cultural sites and introduced new cosmic beings. Clearly, the act of erasure was violent and destabilising. But the act was also generative of new expressive spiritscape and cosmic dialogues. In this sense, missionary interventions held unintended consequences. This paper examines mission texts, ethnographies and oral histories to chart missionary interventions in Torres Strait and adjacent areas in southern central New Guinea. I do so in an attempt to clarify the grammar and form of these early mission encounters to (1) understand the effect of material interventions in Torres Strait Islander seascapes, (2) consider Islander agency in the evangelical encounter, and (3) draw attention to the materiality of this process.