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Translating Religion and Secularism in China

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Historically, the cluster of ideas and practices closest to ‘religion’, ‘faith’ and ‘ritual’ in imperial China occupied a very different historical structure and role from the Abrahamic traditions which gave the names to the above mentioned cluster. The paper will seek to outline the Chinese cluster with reference to the framework of Axial Age traditions. Rather than competition over scripture and faith, Chinese society has witnessed competition between the state, elites and popular groups over the issue of cosmological hegemony and access to cosmological power. The introduction of secularism and religion as social categories in 20th-century China has involved the (modern) Christianization of the question of religion and continues to obscure the problem of religion both in academic analysis and political practice.

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This talk is part of the CRASSH lectures series.

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