Religious Marketplaces, Constellative Networking and Urbanism
The Study of Religions, East Asian Lunch Seminar, and the Oslo Buddhist Studies Forum have the pleasure of inviting you to the lecture "Religious Marketplaces, Constellative Networking and Urbanism" by professor Dan Smyer Yü. After the lecture and discussion on Religious Marketplace, Smyer Yü will give a shorter interactive talk entitled: "An Inter-Asian Formation of Modern China since the 1200s: Climate Change, Imperial Conquests and Predicaments of Ethnic Diversity.”
Topic of the lecture: As an increasing number of Tibetan lamas reach out to non-Tibetan populations in contemporary China, Tibetan Buddhism is undergoing various transformations especially in urban settings. As its engagement with many aspects of the Chinese society, such as higher education, social morality, philanthropy, environmental conservation, and modern science, the pattern of its transregional and trans-ethnic expansion shows itself as an urban lay Buddhist movement. Based on the author’s ethnographic work, this lecture discusses how the politics, economics, and practices of Tibetan Buddhism are deeply entangled with each other in contemporary Chinese society. Situated in this sociopolitical context, this lecture, by treating Tibetan Buddhism as a world religion, argues that a Sino-Tibetan Buddhist modernism emerges in urban China as a Buddhist urbanism possessing both transcendental orientation and worldly function regarding the Buddhist sense of enlightenment and practical techniques for human worldly wellbeing under the fast changing, precarious conditions of livelihood making in contemporary China. The organizational manifestation of this Sino-Tibetan Buddhist modernism is what the author calls the “constellative networks,” which, sustained by material resources donated from affluent Buddhist individuals and businesses, diffuse the lineage-based Buddhist teachings from Tibetan regions to its receivers in different cities of China.
After Prof. Smyer Yü’s lecture and discussion on Religious Marketplace, Constellative Networking and Urbanism, he will give a shorter interactive talk entitled: "An Inter-Asian Formation of Modern China since the 1200s: Climate Change, Imperial Conquests and Predicaments of Ethnic Diversity.”
This short interactive talk tells a climatic story of how modern China has taken its current geographical shape and how it continues to grapple with the tensions between a unified modern nation-state and the presence of the past laden with numerous imperial, civilizational, and cultural encounters induced by forces of climatic change over the last eight hundred years. It treats modern China not merely as having a uniform political system with its distinct ideological values and governing patterns, but, more critically, as a multi-ecological, multi-climatic, multi-ethnic, multi-civilizational zone which traces its divergent roots to both Chinese and non-Chinese cultures. Situated in the environmental contexts of the historical Mongol-China-Manchu nexuses, this lecture takes a climatic-ecological reading of their imperial encounters and discusses how the Little Ice Age (1200s-1800s) intensified their violent interactions, eventually leading to the formation of modern China as the outcome of combined human factors and environmental forces. It wishes to present a thesis that the inadvertent co-creation of modern Chinese territory by these three historical imperial polities is expressed in three arenas of their interactions, conflicts, and conquests, namely ecologically complementary livelihood making, environmentally-conditioned imperial expansions/cessations, and the climatically insensitive, modern political governing of meteorologically patterned and ecologically unique ethnic groups. In addition to the formulation of this thesis, this lecture also re-highlights modern China not merely as an East Asian nation as conceived in traditional area studies but also as an inter-Asian state as it intersects and/or encompasses parts of Northeast Asia, Inner Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia. Its formation possesses a visible historical record of imperial encounters and human migrations due to climate change.
Lecturer’s bio: Dan Smyer Yü is a professor and the Director of the Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies at Yunnan Minzu University (China). He has a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Davis. He is an anthropologist specializing in the studies of religious revitalizations, charismatic communities, commercialization of religious spirituality, and the relationship between eco-religious practices and place-making in contemporary China. He also taught and held research positions at the University of California, Davis, Graduate Theological Union, San Francisco Theological Seminary, and Sacramento City College, and the Center for the Pacific Rim of University of San Francisco. His research interests include religion and ethnic nationalism; religiosity of state ideology; religious conversion; religion and ecology; sacred landscapes; pilgrimage studies; religion and mental health; religion and peacebuilding; visual anthropology; and religious use of digital media. He is the author of 'The Spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China: Charisma, Money, Enlightenment' (Routledge 2011) and 'Mindscaping the Landscape of Tibet: Place, Memorability, Eco-aesthetics' (De Gruyter 2015), and a co-editor of 'Religion and Ecological Sustainability in China' (Routledge 2014) and 'Trans-Himalayan Borderlands: Livelihoods, Territorialities, Modernities' (Amsterdam University Press 2017). In addition to his research writing, Dan Smyer Yu has also made an ethnographic film titled 'Embrace', which documents Amdo Tibetans' narratives concerning folk religious practices and their ecological significances. It was nominated for award at the Beijing International Film Festival in 2011.