PROGRAMME for Religion in Consumer Society: Perspectives from Asia

Panel at the 10th Annual International ADI Conference

University of Copenhagen, June 18/6, 2018.


Conveners:      Trine Brox, Jane Caple and Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg

Chair:                 Jane Caple


Over the past three decades, we have witnessed astonishing economic growth and the emergence of new markets and cultures of consumption across Asia. Rather than being eclipsed by such ‘late modern’ transformations, traditional and new forms of religion are intertwined with contemporary consumer cultures. Entailing the mediation of “various areas of social life … through market relations in the form of the consumption of commodities,” a consumer culture is one in which “marketization, commoditization, advertisement and branding are fundamental processes” (Gauthier and Martikainen 2013: 3). These processes coalesce in the growth of commercialized religion. This includes the sale for profit of: (i) experiences, such as meditation courses and pilgrimage tourism; (ii) messages, including mediatized religious teachings in the form of books, games, and audio-visual recordings; and (iii) things: material objects such as statues and icons that can function as both a decoration and recipient of offerings. Such religious commerce is certainly nothing new, but the scale and scope is. Mass-production enables an endless supply of a variety of religious products and services that are accessible and affordable to consumers far beyond historical religious and economic networks.

Avoiding normative approaches to consumption and commodification, this interdisciplinary panel seeks to bring together scholars working on religion in Asia’s contemporary consumer societies, spanning a range of regions and including both rural and urban contexts.



1.15-1.45   Veg or non-veg? On Fieldwork and Food in India, Johan Fischer, Roskilde University

1.45-2.1 5  Marketing and consumption of Buddhism at tourist destinations in Ladakh, India, Elizabeth Williams-Oerberg, University of Copenhagen

2.15-2.45   Between Buddhist discipline and body economy: Commercialized kung-fu of the Shaolin temple in contemporary China, Lufeng Xu, INALCO

2.45-3.15   Buddhist Temples of the Future and an Invention of a Temple Community in Contemporary Japan, Paulina Kolata, University of Manchester   BREAK

3.30-4.00   Commercialized Karma: Abortion Rituals in Taiwan, Grace Cheng-Ying Lin, John Abbott College

4.00-4.30   The multivalence of Buddhist power objects as commodities, Trine Brox, University of Copenhagen

4.30-5.00   From Accumulating Merits to Purchasing Graces: A Transfer or Rebound of Devotional Patterns, Junfu Wong, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

5.00-5.30   Merit-making and Puer Tea Economy in a Theravada Buddhist Bulang Community, Zhen Ma, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity




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