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CCCI: A Most Awkward Sphere: The “Religion Sphere” in Modern and Contemporary China

Monday, April 23, 2018 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Goldwin Smith Hall, G64, Kaufmann Auditorium
232 East Ave, Central Campus

The Cornell Contemporary China Initiative Lecture Series, featuring interdisciplinary talks by scholars on issues in China today, runs every Monday this semester. 

Adam Yuet Chau, Senior Lecturer in the Anthropology of Modern China, University of Cambridge

"A Most Awkward Sphere: The 'Religion Sphere' in Modern and Contemporary China"

Chau will examine the curious yet extremely potent concept and operations of the “religion sphere” in modern and contemporary China. Unlike the institutional setup of the official religious associations, the religion sphere (subdivided into the Buddhism sphere, the Protestantism sphere, etc.) is a fuzzy sociopolitical domain in which (and with which) the public/political presence and significance of China’s religious “communities” are negotiated. Chau will explore the emergence, constitution and transformation of the religion sphere as it co-emerged with other spheres in China, and show how Chinese nationhood as well as Chinese secularity (paradoxically) have been crucially constituted by the religion sphere. However, when compared with other spheres, the religion sphere is a most awkward sphere (you will know why it is so if you come to the lecture!). Broader still, Chau shall argue that the “sphere-ization” of Chinese society is one of the most interesting and exciting topics to study if one wants to understand how Chinese society works, especially relating to state-society relations.

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


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East Asia Program

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Adam Yuet Chau

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University of Cambridge

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