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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Event date: 
Wednesday, 14 November, 2018 - 17:00 to 18:30

China Research Seminar Series talk given by Dr Adam Yuet Chau, Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge

Given China’s dramatic and spectacular transformation in the past three decades or so one would expect to see some equally dramatic and spectacular transformations in the religious landscape. Despite the appearance of a sudden shift from a seemingly ‘Godless’ China to a landscape of undoubtedly vibrant religious life, one should not overestimate the success of Maoist socialism to wipe out religion altogether nor underestimate the substantial impact more than six decades of societal transformations under Chinese socialism have had on the nature and shape of Chinese religious life. More often than not, broader processes of sociopolitical transformation that seem to have nothing to do with religion (e.g. urbanisation, the development of new technologies) have shaped religion more than shifts in religious policies. Meanwhile, many traditional forms of religious practice have come back with a vengeance. All religious traditions are complex, dynamic, ever-changing clusters of institutions, practitioners and consumers, knowledge and practices, sociopolitical relations and hierarchies fully amenable to innovations, inventions, and reinventions all the time. There is always a complex and dynamic relationship between reproduction and innovation in religious life. In this presentation I will focus on a few key aspects of how religion relates to broader societal transformations in contemporary China.

We all know Adam, so he needs no introduction. Nonetheless his vital (academic) signs are: Adam Yuet Chau earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology at Stanford University in 2001. He is University Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Modern China teaching in the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Cambridge. He is the author of Miraculous Response: Doing Popular Religion in Contemporary China (Stanford University Press 2006) and editor of Religion in Contemporary China: Revitalization and Innovation (Routledge 2011). His new book, Religion in China: Ties That Bind, will come out from Polity in early 2019. He is interested in developing better ways of conceptualizing Chinese religious culture. One of his out-reach ambitions is to stop people from asking the question ‘How many religions are there in China?’ He is currently working on book projects investigating the idiom of hosting (zuozhu) and forms of powerful writing (‘text acts’) in Chinese political and religious culture; the rise of the ‘religion sphere’ (zongjiaojie) in modern China; and modalities of doing religion.

Professor Hans van de Ven FBA: