Center for Interdisziplinary Research

The Revitalization and Invention of Tradition. Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Religious Sites and Rites in Post-Socialist China

Date: March 6 - 7, 2009

Organizer: Xiaobing Wang-Riese (München)

The workshop "The Revitalization and Invention of Tradition", conceived and organized by Dr. Xiaobing Wang-Riese (University of Munich, Member of ZiF Network of Young Scientists), focussed on the phenomenon of re-discovering and making use of the past in a modernizing society as in post-socialist China. Scholars of social anthropology, physiological psychology, literary science, religious studies and Chinese regional studies from Germany, China, Japan, the U.S.A, the U.K. and Switzerland presented case studies from current China and discussed them applying European cultural theories related to memory and society. Main findings are: The revitalization and invention of tradition in current China occur mostly on a local level aiming at reconstruction of local identity and enhancement of local economy. Tradition is usually associated with religious sites and rites and interpreted as changeable. It is transmitted and adapted into a new form in negotiation with the policy of government and the demands of social development. Individuals-whether politicians, cultural or religious activists, or entrepreneurs-play a very important role in such processes. Their personal experience, educational background, memory, attitude, and taste are crucial to the selective and symbolic transformation of tradition. Thus, these studies can partly confirm existing European theories, but on the other hand might challenge them with new questions concerning the relationship between popular religion and tradition, the role of individual and the government, the interaction of grand and minor (or local) traditions and so forth.

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