This lecture discusses the social symbioses and moral antipathies of money and religious charisma in the revitalizations and spread of Tibetan Buddhism in China. Based on his ethnographic work, in this lecture, Professor Dan Smyer Yu presents a social reality of Buddhism in which the growth of Tibetan Buddhism in urban China is a dynamic interplay of concurrent creation-destabilization, meaning that the market creatively destabilizes traditional forms of Tibetan Buddhism while it simultaneously subversively creates new forms of its practice. In both ethnographic and conceptual terms this lecture discusses how money, the primary indicator of wealth in the Chinese market economy, functions as the principal creation-destabilization instrument simultaneously converting religious desires to commercial values and engendering what the speaker calls “the charismatic community” of Chinese Tibetan Buddhists with its moral dilemma concerning the religiosity of money and the spirituality of Buddhism. Professor Yu will argue that materiality and spirituality do not have clear-cut boundaries but are rather inextricably intertwined as shown in the case of the multi-dimensional encounters of the worldly absoluteness of money and the sanctified inalienability of Buddhist teachings in the politics of religion and ethnicity in contemporary China.
Dan Smyer Yü is Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Trans-Himalayan Studies at Yunnan Minzu University. He received Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2006 from the University of California, Davis. Prior to his current faculty appointment, he was a senior researcher and Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity and a core member of the Transregional Research Network (CETREN) at the University of Göttingen in Göttingen, Germany, and a New Millennium Scholar at Minzu University of China, Beijing. 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, Ecoaesthetics (De Gruyter, 2015), and the co-editor of Religion and Ecological Sustainability in China (Routledge 2014) and Trans-Himalayan Borderlands: Livelihoods, Territorialities, Modernities (AUP 2017). His current research interests are religion and ecology, environmental humanities, transboundary state effects, hydraulic politics, climate change and heritage preservation, Buddhism and peacebuilding, and comparative studies of Eurasian secularisms. He is also a documentary filmmaker.
Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Kunbing Xiao, CGA-ARC Postdoc Fellow, NYU Shanghai & Fudan University.
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