Varieties of Secularism in Asia: Anthropological Explorations of Religion, Politics and the Spiritual, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Varieties of Secularism in Asia

Anthropological Explorations of Religion, Politics and the Spiritual, 1st Edition

Edited by Nils Ole Bubandt, Martijn Van Beek


272 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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Varieties of Secularism is an ethnographically rich, theoretically well-informed, and intellectually coherent volume which builds off the work of Talal Asad, Charles Taylor, and others who have engaged the issue of secularism(s) and in socio-political life. The volume seeks to examine theories of secularism/secularity and examine concrete ethnographic cases in order to further the theoretical discussion.

Whereas Taylor’s magisterial work draws up the conditions and problems of a belief in God in Western modernity, it leaves unexplored the challenges posed by the spiritual in modernity outside of the North Atlantic rim. This anthology seeks to begin that task. It does so by suggesting that the kind of secularity described by Taylor is only one amongst others. By attending to the shifting relationship between proper religion and ‘bad faiths’; between politically valorised and embarrassing spiritual phenomena; between the new visibilities and silences of magic, ancestors, and religion in democratic politics, this book seeks to outline the particular formations of secularism that have become possible in Asia from China to Indonesia and from Bahrain to Timor-Leste.

This book will appeal to students and scholars of Asian religion, politics and anthropology.

Table of Contents

1. Varieties of Secularism - in Asia and in Theory, Nils Bubandt and Martijn van Beek 2. Mimetic Re-enchantment: The Contemporary Chinese State and Tibetan Religious Leadership, Robert Barnett 3. Unyoking the Political from the Religious: Secularisation and Democratisation in the Tibetan Community in Exile, Trine Brox 4. Enlightened Democracy: Normative Secularism and Spiritual Authority on the Margins of Indian Politics, Martijn van Beek 5. Secularism and the Kashmir Dispute, Martin Sökefeld 6. Laiklik and Legitimation in Rural Eastern, Xinjiang Chris Hann 7. Being Muslim the Ironic Way. Secularism, Religion and Irony in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan, Maria Louw 8. Sectarian Secularism. The Role of Secularities in Bahrain, Thomas Fibiger 9. Shadows of Secularism: Money Politics, Spirit Politics, and the Law in an Indonesian Election, Nils Bubandt 10. The Rebel and the Diplomat: Revolutionary Spirits, Sacred Legitimation, and Democracy in Timor-Leste, Maj Nygaard-Christensen 11. Secularity and Religiosity: Holy Spaces and the Battle for Administrative Control over Land in Bangkok, Michael Herzfeld

About the Editors

Nils Bubandt and Martijn van Beek are both affiliated to the Department of Anthropology and Ethnography at Aarhus University, Denmark.

About the Series

Anthropology of Asia

Asia today is one of the most dynamic regions of the world. The previously predominant image of ‘timeless peasants’ has given way to the image of fast-paced business people, mass consumerism and high-rise urban conglomerations. Yet much discourse remains entrenched in the polarities of East versus West’, ‘Tradition versus Change’. This series hopes to provide a forum for anthropological studies which break with such polarities. It will publish titles dealing with cosmopolitanism, cultural identity, representations, arts and performance. The complexities of urban Asia, its elites, its political rituals, and its families will also be explored.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Eastern
RELIGION / Spirituality
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Regional Studies