The University of Western Australia

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Debra McDougall

Dr Debra McDougall

Senior Lecturer
Anthropology and Sociology

Contact details
Anthropology and Sociology
The University of Western Australia (M257)
35 Stirling Highway
+61 8 6488 2869
+61 8 6488 1062
BA Penn. MA PhD Chic.
Debra McDougall is a Senior Lecturer (LVL) C at the University of Western Australia, where she has taught since 2010 following an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship (2006-2010). She earned her MA and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, having completed an undergraduate degree in History with honours from the Pennsylvania State University.
Key research
Debra has conducted extensive fieldwork in Solomon Islands (primarily the Western Province Island of Ranongga) since 1998. That research has culminated in a monograph on Ranongga Engaging with Strangers: Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands (2016, Berghahn Books). With Matt Tomlinson, she edited a volume on Christian Politics in Oceania.
She has also published articles and book chapters on topics including the anthropology of Christianity, vernacular language education and Bible translation, headhunting warfare, land tenure and development disputes, conflict and peacemaking, women’s Christian fellowship, men’s conversion to Islam, and customary political authority.
Debra has begun new research focused on the promises and disappointments of formal schooling in Solomon Islands the various alternatives to formal state-run educational systems that have emerged in the decades following the civil conflict.

2016. Engaging with Strangers: Love and Violence in the Rural Solomon Islands. New York: Berghahn Books.

2013. M. Tomlinson and D. McDougall, eds. Christian Politics in Oceania, New York: Berghahn Books.


2016. ‘Saving states, saving souls: Australian interventions in Solomon Islands,’ Christianity, Conflict, and Renewal in Australia and the Pacific, edited by Fiona Magowan and Carolyn Schwarz. Leiden: Brill Publishers, Pp 255-277. DOI 10.1163/9789004311459_015

2014. 'Tired for nothing? Women, Chiefs, and the Domestification of Customary Authority in Solomon Islands,' chapter in Divine Domesticities: Christian Paradoxes in Asia and the Pacific, Margaret Jolly and Hyaeweol Choi,eds. ANU Press.

2013. ‘Evangelical Public Culture: Making Stranger-Citizens in Solomon Islands,’ in Christian Politics in Oceania Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall, eds. Pp 122-145. New York: Berghahn Books.

2013. M. Tomlinson and D. McDougall. ‘Introduction: Christian Politics in Oceania,’ in Christian Politics in Oceania, Matt Tomlinson and Debra McDougall, eds. Pp 1-21. New York: Berghahn Books.

2011. ‘Church, Company, Committee, Chief: Emergent Collectivities in Rural Solomon Islands, in Managing Modernity: Capitalism, Cosmology, and Globalization in the Pacific, Mary Patterson and Martha Macintyre, eds. Pp 121-146. Brisbane: University of Queensland Press.

2011. D. McDougall with J. Kere. 'Christianity, Custom, and Law: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Post-Conflict Solomon Islands,' In Mediating Across Difference: Indigenous, Oceanic and Asian Approaches to Conflict Resolution, Morgan Brigg and Roland Bleiker, eds. Pp 141-162. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.


2015. ‘Mobile religion on ancestral ground: Rituals of Christian Conversion in the Western Solomon Islands,’ in Special Issue: Faith in Motion, eds. Farida Fozdar and Debra McDougall, Journal for the Academic Study of Religion 28 (3): 309-329, DOI: 10.1558/jasr.v28i3.28943

2015. F. Fozdar and D. McDougall, ‘Faith in Motion: Religious mobility in the Australo-Pacific region’, Journal for the Academic Study of Religion 28 (4): 227-231, DOI: 10.1558/jasr.v28i3.28564

2015. ‘Customary authority and state withdrawal in Solomon Islands: Resilience or Tenacity,’ in Special Issue: Solomon Islands in Transition, eds. Matthew Allen and Sinclair Dinnen, The Journal of Pacific History 50 (4): 450-472, DOI: 10.1080/00223344.2015.1110102

2014. ‘History and Anthropology during the last decade,’ (co-authored with Mark Edele), Antropologichesky Forum (Forum for Anthropology and Culture) 20: 121-132. [published in Russian translation as История и антропология за последние десять лет]

2013, ‘Spiritual “capacity”? Overseas religious missions in RAMSI-era Solomon Islands.” State, Society, and Governance in Melanesia Project Discussion Paper Series, Canberra: Australian National University.

2012. ‘Stealing foreign words, recovering local treasures: Bible translation and vernacular literacy on Ranongga (Solomon Islands),’ in Special Issue: Interlingual Articulations in Asia and the Pacific: Figuring Sociocultural Otherness through Otherness of Linguistic Codes, eds. Alan Rumsey and Rupert Stasch, The Australian Journal of Anthropology 23 (3): 318-339.

2009. 'Becoming Sinless: Converting to Islam in the Christian Solomon Islands,' American Anthropologist 111 (4): 480-491.

2009. 'Rethinking Christianity and Anthropology: A Review Article (review essay),' Anthropological Forum 19 (2): 185-194.

2009. Christianity, Relationality, and the Material Limits of Individualism: Reflections on Robbins’s Becoming Sinners,' The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 10 (1): 1-19.

2008. 'Religious Institutions as Alternative Structures in Post-conflict Solomon Islands: Cases from the Western Province,' State, Society, and Governance in Melanesia Project Discussion Paper Series, 2008/5, Canberra: Australian National. University.

2008. 'Christian Dilemmas Beyond Locality' [Review essay on Webb Keane, Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter (U California, 2007) and Matthew Engelke, A Problem of Presence: Beyond Scripture in an African Church (U California, 2007)] Current Anthropology, 49 (5): 945-946.

2007 (with S. Albert, J. Udy, G. Baines). 'Dramatic tectonic uplift of fringing reefs on Ranongga Is., Solomon Islands,' Coral Reefs (Online First edition). (

2006. 'New Interventions, Old Asymmetries: Australia & the Solomon Islands,' The New Critic, Issue 3, 2006, online (

2005. 'The Unintended Consequences of Clarification: Development, Disputing, and the Dynamics of Community in Ranongga, Solomon Islands,' Ethnohistory 52 (1): 81-109.

2003. 'Fellowship and Citizenship as Models of National Community: United Church Women's Fellowship in Ranongga, Solomon Islands,' Oceania 74 (1-2): 61-80.

2000. 'Paths of Pinauzu: Captivity and Social Reproduction in Ranongga,' Journal of the Polynesian Society 109 (1): 99-113.


2014. Sub-national governance in post-RAMSI Solomon Islands. State, Society, and Governance in Melanesia Project Working Paper Series, 2014/3, Canberra: Australian National University.

2007. S. Albert, J. Udy, G. Baines, D. McDougall. ‘Dramatic tectonic uplift of fringing reefs on Ranongga Is., Solomon Islands,’ (co-authored with S. Albert, J. Udy, G. Baines), Coral Reefs (‘Online First’ edition). (

2006. D. McDougall, I. Barry and S. Pioh. Disaster and recovery in Ranongga: Six months after the earthquake in the Western Solomons, Honiara Solomon Islands.
Roles, responsibilities and expertise
Debra has broad expertise in socio-cultural anthropology; historical anthropology; linguistic anthropology; the anthropology of Oceania; social and cultural theory; the interdisciplinary study of religion; ender; ethnicity and conflict; and intercultural relations.
Funding received
2006 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant
Kubokota and Luqa, Austronesian languages of Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands Pijin
Australian Anthropological Society
Previous positions
ARC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Anthropology and Sociology, University of Western Australia, 2006-2010.

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA), 2004-2006

Preceptor, Program in International Studies, University of Chicago, 2003-2004

Lecturer, Department of Anthropology and Social Science Collegiate Division, University of Chicago 2004.
Since 2010, Debra has coordinated ANTH1002 Global Change, Local Responses; ANTH 2402 Religion and Society; ANTH 2001 Social Thought; ANTH 3001 Doing Ethnography; ANTH 3401 Engaged Anthropology; ANTH 3602 Social Worlds of Asia and the Pacific. She contributes to several other units.

She welcomes inquiries from potential postdoctoral students seeking to undertake research on the anthropology of Melanesia, anthropology of Christianity, interdisciplinary work on religion and globalisation, gender, development, and conflict in the Asia-Pacific region.
Research profile
Research profile and publications

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Last updated:
Tuesday, 3 November, 2015 2:39 PM