Religious Ecology vs. Religious Market

Conférence de

Philip Clart (University of Leipzig)

Religious Ecology vs. Religious Market: Two Competing Theoretical Models in Current Chinese Scholarship on Religions

le vendredi 20 janvier 2012, de 10:00 a 12:00 au GSRL (salle 124), 59, rue Pouchet, 75017 Paris

The gradual relaxation of the People's Republic of China's political control over religious life since the late 1970s has enabled an unprecedented upsurge in religious activities (dubbed “religion fever,” zongjiaore, in public discourse). Christian house churches, lineage ancestral shrines, community temples, Buddhist and Daoist monasteries, to name just a few phenomena, have sprung up in many places. This paper will not study these developments per se, but instead will focus on the attempts of Chinese academics to develop theoretical approaches and conceptual frameworks that account for this upsurge and for the highly diversified nature of the emerging religious scene. At present, there exist two major models: -* (1) a religious market approach propounded mostly by sociologists, which sees the various religious groups engaged in competition for adherents in locally, regionally, and nationally defined markets; -* (2) a religious ecology approach favoured by historians and folklorists, which regards the diversity of religious groups as existing within a larger cultural system tending towards a state of balance. Competition happens in such a system, but is ultimately subordinate to the system's overall tendency to harmonize its components and bring them into complementary rather than competitive relations. The sometimes acrimonious nature of the debates between the two scholarly camps indicates that there is more at stake than purely academic differences. Each of the two positions has political ramifications that tend to make the establishment of a middle ground difficult. Thus, through the study of these debates we can gain insights into the close relationship in PRC academia between research and policy-making.
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