[URBANTH-L]CFP: Workshop on Religious Commodifications in Asia

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Mon Mar 14 12:16:00 EST 2005

Workshop on Religious Commodifications in Asia: Enchantment of Globalising
24-25 November 2005, Singapore

organised by the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Religious commodification or the intersection between certain religious
traditions and market economy is nothing new, nor of recent origin. It has
long been a notable phenomenon which students of religions have observed
worldwide. Some classical theorists argue that with the rise of modern
capitalism and more rationalized organization of social life, religious
influences should be in decline. However, studies by contemporary
sociologists and anthropologists in the past few decades have indicated
otherwise. Traditional as well as newly-emerged religious practices have not
only survived the on-slaughters of market economy, but also been able to
produce and reproduced some meaningful forms and messages of rituals and
beliefs to modern and postmodern life.

Taking experiences of East and Southeast Asian countries, one could argue
that wherever capitalism grows as modes of modern production and
consumption, religion also flourishes. The rapid industrialization in
post-Second World War Japan gave birth to phenomenal new religious
movements, where everyday life frustration and tension were met with
promises religious messiahs and magical practices. In newly industrialized
countries like Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, the revivals of
traditional as well as new religious practices are also intensively
reported, especially in 1980s and 1990s.

Considering rapid socioeconomic and cultural changes in the region in the
past few decades, it is imperative to investigate and compare forms,
processes, tensions, and implications of religious commoditizations across
Asian major religious traditions, i.e., Chinese religious traditions,
Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.

This workshop aims to explore complex and diverse intersections between
religious practices and global capitalist forces in the Asian contexts. It
plans to bring together international scholars working on Asian religions to
discuss and explore the "big picture" of religious commoditization in this
region. How have "world-historic religions" (e.g., Buddhism, Christianity,
Hinduism, and Islam) and other living religious traditions (e.g., Chinese
and other indigenous spirit cults) adjusted themselves to cope with the
onslaughts of late capitalist, market-oriented economy? To what extent has
transnational capitalism in various forms and at different levels altered
and reshaped the Asian religious landscapes? What has the global capitalism
done to Asian religious traditions? What are social processes and contexts
leading to the emergence of 'prosperity religions'? What are responses from
local and transnational religious communities to the evasive intrusion of
commoditization? What are emerging voices, identities, or other
complications out of a selection of prosperity religions in Asia? How do
traditional religious traditions as well as premodern magic and superstition
persist and survive the onslaught of modernization and globalization forces?

The workshop intends to revisit and reexamine the influential roles of
religious traditions and their convergences with complex mundane forces in
contemporary Southeast Asian, where rapid economic growth and radical
sociocultural transformations have manifested in the past few decades. In
his ground-breaking edited volume, "Religions and the Transformations of
Capitalism: Comparative Approaches," Richard Roberts (1995:2) argues that
since the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the arrival of forceful
transnational market economy, ".there is a mutual and dynamic relation
between religions and economic processes." These processes have given birth
to what he calls "prosperity religion," which Jackson (1999:246) defines in
the context of Thai popular religion as "popular movements that emphasize
wealth acquisition as much as salvation." It tends to link ".an array of
spiritually significant meanings to the
prevailing consumerism of the period" (Ibid.).

The workshop's key objectives are outlined as follows:
To address Southeast Asia's prosperity religions and religious
commoditization from cross-disciplinary perspectives; To explore some
possible post-Durkheimian, post-Weberian sociological and some other
up-to-date theoretical explanations to the religious convergences as social
processes in Southeast Asia's diverse contexts; To discuss some effective
research methodologies in understanding the region's changing religious

The workshop intends to explore a wide range of prosperity religion and
commodifications as practiced within Southeast Asia's diverse and rich
religious traditions. Following topics are encouraged for the paper
presentation and discussion during the workshop.

The commercialization of Buddhism and its implications
Islam and its responses to the world market economy
Christianity and the marketized faiths
On the subject of Chinese vegetarian festivals
Cases of other emerging prosperity religions and cults
Religious celebrities
Religious publications and publishing business
Religious fetish objects and goods
Religious aspects of lottery and other forms of gambling
Amulet industry and its networks on the cyber space

Religious commoditizations in the late global capitalist junctures;
Rethinking the intersection between the religious and the market forces and
its implications: some theoretical and empirical considerations

Paper proposals including 250-word abstracts and 5-line biography should be
sent to Ms. Valerie Yeo at the e-mail address provided below by 31 May 2005.
Those selected will be urged to send in a completed paper by 15 September
Some funding will be available for those in the Southeast Asian region,
post-graduate students, and others unable to fund themselves. It is hoped
that the workshop will lead to a key publication in the field of comparative
Southeast Religion.

For enquiries, please contact:
Organising Committee:
Bryan Turner (aribst at nus.edu.sg)
Vineeta Sinha (socvs at nus.edu.sg)
Pattana Kitiarsa (aripk at nus.edu.sg)
Secretariat: Ms Valerie Yeo (contact information provided below).

References Cited
Jackson, Peter A. "Royal Spirits, Chinese Gods, and Magic Monks: Thailand's
Boom-Time Religions of Prosperity." South East Asia Research. 7, 3 (November
Roberts, Richard H., ed. Religion and the Transformations of Capitalism:
Comparative Apporaches. London: Routledge, 1995.
Ms Valerie Yeo
Asia Research Institute
National University of Singapore
AS7, Level 4, 5 Arts Link
Tel: 65 6874 5279
Fax: 65 6779 1428

Email: ariyeov at nus.edu.sg
Visit the website at http://www.ari.nus.edu.sg/conf2005/commodification.htm

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