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2013: Orientalistentag

Christianity as a ‘model religion’? Constructing global modernity in China, 1800 to the present

The panel focuses on the transformation of religious and ideological discourses in China since the nineteenth century. Contributions will examine, in particular, how Christianity became a point of reference for such discourses. In fact, both in the Christian self-image and in external perspectives on the ‘Western’ religion, Christianity was perceived as a ‘prototypical religion’. In China in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Christian impact was a transnational phenomenon manifesting itself both as an ideational construct that drew on diverse cultural contexts and as a concrete presence in the form of foreign mission societies and indigenous congregations. On both levels, religious and political reform movements took Christianity as a focal point for developing their specific strategies of globalization and localization. This was true, among others, of new Confucian and Buddhist concepts in the late Qing and Republican periods, but also of attempts to achieve political mass mobilization through powerful ideologies explicitly designed as belief systems. Adaptation was generally selective, but could take on different forms, from the explicit emulation of Christian elements to disavowal of the borrowing from Christianity. Individual contributions will shed light on this phenomenon from different disciplinary angles and with regard to different historical contexts (including the present). At the same time, the panel will provide an opportunity to critically engage with the concepts of ‘globalization’ and ‘global modernity’, examining to what extent these analytical categories foster our understanding the ideational, social and political transformation of China since the nineteenth century.