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Public Lecture:  "Is the concept of Secularism relevant to China?"
by Dr. Prasenjit Duara
Raffles Professor of Humanities
Director, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

DATE:  August 4, 2014
TIME:   6:30 PM
LOCATION:  PSU campus, School of Business building, SBA room 190
on the corner of SW Harrison at 4th Ave. 

Synopsis: 
The lecture draws up the principal ideas from a chapter in my forthcoming book concerning the historical field of Chinese religions in comparative context in order to identify its distinctive problems and possible pathways. In order to distinguish religions in the Sinosphere from other state-religion relationships in the longue durée, we need to identify how the state and religions have managed the question of transcendence. I explore the relationship between state and religions in late imperial China, focusing especially on the Qing period (1644-1911). What were the methods whereby segments and groups in popular religion accommodated diversity? What were the techniques of self-formation linking the self/body to the local and to universal ideals in late imperial China?

Dr. Duara argues that the Chinese case has largely escaped the conflicts among confessional communities through much of its history. It also largely escaped the late 19th and early 20thcentury penetration of faith-based models of nationalism that appeared in Japan and India. But if the Chinese case escaped both these developments, it suppressed and continues to deal with another type of problem: a vertical division-- between state and elites versus popular religiosities-- rather than a lateral competition in the realm of transcendence and faith in the modern transition. In significant part because our notions of religion in Asia derive from the radical categories of the Abrahamic faiths, we see why the idea of secularization seems to do so little for our understanding of modern China even though the question of religion is an explosive one.

About the speaker:
Prasenjit Duara is a historian of China and more broadly of Asia in the twentieth century. He also writes on historical thought and historiography. Duara was professor and chairman of the History department at the University of Chicago. Since 2008 he has been at NUS where he is Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director of Asia Research Institute and of Research in Humanities and Social Sciences. Duara has spoken as a keynote lecturer or distinguished speaker at over 60 institutions around the world since 1996.  He has published numerous books and articles. His work has been widely translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

View Dr.Prasenjit Duara's curriculum vitae >>

View Dr.Prasenjit Duara's recent publications >>

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