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CCCI: American Daoists in China: cultural appropriation or soft power?

Monday, November 12, 2018 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Goldwin Smith Hall, G64
232 East Ave, Central Campus

The Cornell Contemporary China Initiative (CCCI) welcomes Dr David A Palmer, Associate Professor in the department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong to present the final lecture in our fall, 2018 series.

This talk is based on the newly released book Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and the Predicament of Modern Spirituality (University of Chicago Press, co-authored with Elijah Siegler), a multi-sited ethnographic study of transnational encounters between American spiritual tourists and practitioners and the Chinese monks and hermits of the sacred Daoist peak of Huashan.

The American organizer of the “China Dream Trips” is unapologetic about the “appropriation” of Daoist body, meditation and healing practices into the culture of American spiritual and sexual freedom, while Chinese officials see potential and challenge in using Daoism as an instrument of soft power, and monks use the Americans as a foil for discourses on the spiritual superiority or decline of their orthodox tradition.

The talk will discuss the formation of a global Daoist field in which self-identified Daoist practitioners from around the world communicate about the Dao and contest each other’s claims to authenticity and authority. 

More about Professor David Palmer: Dr David A Palmer is an Associate Professor in the department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong, which he joined in 2008. After completing his Ph.D. at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (School for Advanced Research, Sorbonne), he was the Eileen Barker Fellow in Religion and Contemporary Society in the Department of Sociology of the London School of Economics and Political Science, and, from 2004 to 2008, director of the Hong Kong Centre of the French School of Asian Studies (Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient), located at the Institute for Chinese Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, East Asia Program, Cornell China Center


isscal, chinacal




Cornell Contemporary China Initiative
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Amala Lane

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David Palmer

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Hong Kong University

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wheelchair accessible, hearing assistance provide with advanced notice

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