Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Religion and Authoritarianism by Karrie Koesel (University of Oregon). The publisher’s description follows.
This book provides a rare window into the micropolitics of contemporary authoritarian rule through a comparison of religious-state relations in Russia and China – two countries with long histories of religious repression, and even longer experiences with authoritarian politics. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in multiple sites in these countries, this book explores what religious and political authority want from one another, how they negotiate the terms of their relationship, and how cooperative or conflicting their interactions are. This comparison reveals that while tensions exist between the two sides, there is also ample room for mutually beneficial interaction. Religious communities and their authoritarian overseers are cooperating around the core issue of politics – namely, the struggle for money, power, and prestige – and becoming unexpected allies in the process.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fulfilled an oft-repeated wish to visit Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine while in office. In Shinto belief, the shrine houses the souls of millions who died in the service of the Japanese Empire. Abe has expressed regret that he did not visit the shrine during his last stint as prime minister, from 2006 to 2007.
You’d think a visit to such a shrine by a sitting prime minister would be entirely proper, like an American president visiting Arlington National Cemetery. Abe’s visit has caused great controversy, however, as Abe surely knew it would. Among the souls commemorated at the shrine are a thousand convicted war criminals who fought for Japan in World War II, including wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo. China and Korea, which both suffered greatly at Japan’s hands in that war, deeply resent official visits to Yasukuni and, naturally, objected to Abe’s visit. So, unusually, did the United States, which expressed disappointment “that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors.” Walter Russell Mead does a good job explaining the diplomatic implications.
For his part, Abe said he had not intended to offend Japan’s neighbors or send a crypto-imperialist signal. He did not visit Yasukuni to honor war criminals, he insisted, but to express to the souls housed there his determination “to create an age where no one will ever suffer from tragedies of wars.” In addition, Abe’s spokesman stressed that the prime minister had visited the shrine, and made a donation, strictly as a private citizen exercising his “religious freedom.” This last part is important for purposes of Japanese law. According to the Japanese Supreme Court, the constitutional “separation of state and religion” forbids officials from making financial contributions to Yasukuni for use in Shinto ceremonies.
So, is everything clear now? It was crucially important for Abe to visit Yasukuni while in office–but strictly in an unofficial capacity. A very lawyerly distinction, but one unlikely to persuade anyone in China or Korea. Maybe not even in Japan.
Next month, Princeton University Press will publish The Modern Spirit of Asia: The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India by Peter van der Veer (Utrecht University). The publisher’s description follows.
The Modern Spirit of Asia challenges the notion that modernity in China and India are derivative imitations of the West, arguing that these societies have transformed their ancient traditions in unique and distinctive ways. Peter van der Veer begins with nineteenth-century imperial history, exploring how Western concepts of spirituality, secularity, religion, and magic were used to translate the traditions of India and China. He traces how modern Western notions of religion and magic were incorporated into the respective nation-building projects of Chinese and Indian nationalist intellectuals, yet how modernity in China and India is by no means uniform. While religion is a centerpiece of Indian nationalism, it is viewed in China as an obstacle to progress that must be marginalized and controlled.
The Modern Spirit of Asia moves deftly from Kandinsky’s understanding of spirituality in art to Indian yoga and Chinese qi gong, from modern theories of secularism to histories of Christian conversion, from Orientalist constructions of religion to Chinese campaigns against magic and superstition, and from Muslim Kashmir to Muslim Xinjiang. Van der Veer, an outspoken proponent of the importance of comparative studies of religion and society, eloquently makes his case in this groundbreaking examination of the spiritual and the secular in China and India.
This month, Routledge published Religion in Contemporary China: Revitalization and Innovation edited by Adam Yuet Chau (University of Cambridge). The publisher’s description follows.
Before the modernist transformations of the twentieth century, China had one of the richest and most diverse religious cultures in the world. The radical anti-traditionalist policies of both the Republican and Communist regimes as well as other socio-historical factors posed formidable challenges to China’s religious traditions but, this book argues, these conditions also presented new opportunities for re-generation and innovation.
It shows that economic reforms and the concurrent relaxation of religious policies have provided fertile ground for the revitalization of a wide array of religious practices, including divination, ancestor worship, temple festivals, spirit mediumism, churchgoing, funeral rites, exorcism, pilgrimages, sectarianism, sutra chanting, and the printing and distribution of morality books. Equally new forms of religious practices have emerged such as lay Buddhist preachers, “Maoist shamans”, and a range of qigong sects/schools.
Written by an international, interdisciplinary team of experts who have all conducted in-depth fieldwork research in China, this book provides a wide-ranging survey of contemporary religious practices in China. It examines the different processes and mechanisms of religious revivals and innovations, and, more broadly, relates the Chinese example of religious revitalization to larger issues of social and cultural continuity and change.
This October, Macmillan Publishing has published Ruling, Resources and Religion in China by Elizabeth Van Wie Davis (Colorado School of Mines). The publisher’s description follows.
China is not an easy country to rule: it is experiencing rapid growth and with it rapid social change. Resources and religion are two of the most difficult of its challenges, and their combination with ethnicity is not unique to China. It may well be one of the major underlying currents of the 21st century, and is present throughout Asia—with the Baloch of Pakistan, the Kurds of Iraq and Turkey, and the Timorese of the former island of East Timor in Indonesia, now Timor-Lest. In all these nations, as in China, ethnic identity, often united with religious differences, is driven by the presence of valuable resources to create a nationalism with economic underpinnings. With China, however, the outcome is vital, as how it copes with the pressures for good governance with the Asian economic model, treats its ethnic minorities under scrutiny, and gathers resources to fuel its dynamic economy impacts us all.
An interesting looking history of the difficult relationship between the Catholic Church and China, The Catholic Church in China: 1978 to the Present (Palgrave Macmillan 2012) by Cindy Yik-yi Chu (Hong Kong Baptist University). The publisher’s description follows.
This book traces the history of the Catholic Church in China since the country opened up to the world in December 1978. It comprehensively studies the Chinese Catholic Church on various levels, including an analysis of Sino-Vatican relations, the control over the Catholic Church by the Beijing government, the supervision of local Church activities, and the consecration of government-approved bishops, the formation of priests, and the everyday lives of Chinese Catholics.
This November, Oxford University Press will publish The Future of Religious Freedom: Global Challenges edited by Allen D. Hertzke (University of Oklahoma). The publisher’s description follows.
What is the status of religious freedom in the world today? What barriers does it face? What are the realistic prospects for improvement, and why does this matter? The Future of Religious Freedom addresses these critical questions by assembling in one volume some of the best forward-thinking and empirical research on religious liberty, international legal trends, and societal dynamics. Top scholars from law, political science, diplomacy, sociology, and religion explore the status, value, and challenges of religious liberty around the world – with illustrations from a wide range of historical situations, contemporary contexts, and constitutional regimes. Continue reading
David L. Eng (U. of Penn.), Teemu Ruskola (Emory U. School of Law) Shuang Shen (Penn. State. U.) has posted China and the Human. The abstract follows.
China is everywhere in the news. Most stories seem to fall into one of two categories: accounts of China’s astounding economic development, and reports of equally astonishing human rights abuses in China. Paradoxically, as it turns into a global economic powerhouse, China’s relationship to political freedoms and rights appears to stand in an almost inverse relationship to its economic success. To make sense of the contemporary political moment, this essay examines the politics and histories of China and the human. At the same time, it constitutes a critical introduction to a special double issue of the journal Social Text on the same theme. The special issue, consisting of eleven essays and a visual dossier, considers the problematic conceptual, political, historical, and cultural relationship between Chineseness and humanity. By juxtaposing “China” and “the human” as two discrete categories, this introductory essay does not assume either concept as a pre-given object of knowledge. Rather — together with the other essays in the volume — it examines both China and the human as set of relational, differential, and contrapuntal events, in specific historical and geopolitical contexts.
The introductory essay provides a conceptual and historical map for this inquiry, in a comparative context that examines Euro-American, Chinese, and transnational itineraries of the human and their global crossings. It analyzes China’s potential to undo the universalizing claims of Western idealized norms of the human, while refusing to re-essentialize a Chinese otherness as an alternative perspective. More specifically, the essay interrogates the domination and limitations of the universal human while tracing alternative cosmologies and discourses of Chinese humanism and anti-humanism, informed by Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism, as well as other religious and political traditions. It also examines Marxist and Maoist conceptualizations of the human from transnational perspectives, and finally it considers the status of the human in contemporary China, defined increasingly as a bearer of a set of political and legal rights. What humanity means in China today — and in the world — and what it will mean in the future, is part of an ongoing struggle over the meaning of the past and the politics of the present. This essay offers “China” as a methodology in itself, rather than simply an object of inquiry.
An interesting post by Ian Johnson about the uses to which Daoism is being put by the Chinese government. — MOD
Religion and the Making of Modern East Asia (CUP 2011) by Thomas David DuBois (National University of Singapore) looks like a wonderful book about religion’s contributions to the history, politics, and law of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other East Asian nations. The publisher’s description follows. — MOD
Religious ideas and actors have shaped Asian cultural practices for millennia, and have played a decisive role in charting the course of its history. In this engaging and informative book, Thomas David DuBois sets out to explain how religion has influenced the political, social, and economic transformation of Asia from the fourteenth century to the present day. Crossing a broad terrain from Tokyo to Tibet, the book highlights long-term trends and key moments, such as the expulsion of Catholic missionaries from Japan, or the Taiping Rebellion in China, when religion dramatically transformed the political fate of a nation. Contemporary chapters reflect on the wartime deification of the Japanese emperor, Marxism as religion, the persecution of the Dalai Lama, and the fate of Asian religion in a globalized world.