International Symposium “Corporate Religion in Asia”

In this symposium, we discuss several aspects of corporate religion in Asia, and offer some theoretical and methodological suggestions for studying this underexplored topic.

In most academic discourse, ‘religion’ is discursively differentiated from other, ‘secular’ realms of society, such as public administration, corporate culture, and market economies. Studies of (Asian) religion usually focus on doctrine/philosophy, sacred texts, ritual practices, or political ideology. Only rarely do they analyse institutional or economic structures. Accordingly, religious institutions are commonly perceived and analysed in very different terms from, say, private enterprises, state-owned corporations, or NGOs.

Although numerous scholars have studied the ambivalent relations between religion and state politics in Asia, few have paid attention to the central role played by religious institutions as semi-corporate actors in modern Asian market economies. As a result, most studies that focus on ideological, doctrinal or ritual aspects overlook the significance of corporate sponsorship, economic agendas, and institutional capital (real estate and financial capital) for understanding contemporary Asian religions.

In this symposium, we discuss several aspects of corporate religion in Asia, and offer some theoretical and methodological suggestions for studying this underexplored topic. We argue that it is necessary to get a better understanding of the involvement of religious actors in the market economy, and of the structural similarities between religious and corporate institutions, in order to achieve a better understanding of contemporary Asian market economies and the socio-political systems by which they are shaped. Although there are notable differences between various Asian societies, we believe “corporate religions” play a central role in many of them. At this symposium, we will explore several cases of religious organisations in contemporary Asia, and compare some of the ways in which they operate as (semi-)corporate actors in the modern market economy.

Program:

9.00-9.15 Welcome and introduction

9.15-10.00 Religion, Corporation, or Nation-State? What Soka Gakkai in Japan Reveals about Corporate Religion.
Levi McLaughlin, North Carolina State University

10.00-10.45 Secular Buddhism and Religious Conglomerate: Taiwan Tzu-chi and Its Recycling Engagements
Olivia Yun-An Dung, Leiden University

10.45-11.15 Coffee break

11.15-12.00 Mammoth Churches and Well-being Buddhism: Religious Markets in Contemporary South Korea
Vladimir Tikhonov, University of Oslo

12.00-12.45 Inaccurate Numbers: The Arrival of the Corporate Form in a Religiously-derived NGO
Chika Watanabe, University of Manchester

12.45-13.30 Lunch

13.30-14.15 Competing Values: Religion, Economics, and World Heritage in Nagasaki
Morgaine Wood, University of Oslo

14.15-15.00 Inculcating Corporate Morality in Public Schools
Jolyon Thomas, University of Pennsylvania

15.00-15.30 Coffee break

15.30-16.15 Connections and Corporations of Buddhist Lineages, Monasteries and Masters in Ladakh, India
Elizabeth Williams-Ørberg, University of Copenhagen

16.15-17.00 The Problem of “Green Religion”: Corporatism, Conservatism, and Capitalism
Aike P. Rots, University of Oslo

17.00-17.30 Final discussion

Published May 23, 2018 12:36 PM - Last modified May 24, 2018 12:12 PM