Religious Environmentalism in the Anthropocene: Potentialities & Actualities in Wenzhou, China

Religious Environmentalism in the Anthropocene: Potentialities & Actualities in Wenzhou, China

China provides a unique case of extreme environmental degradation due to the recent breakneck economic and industrial growth as the “factory of the world.”  At the same time, the historical resurgence of traditional Chinese religiosities holds some promise of religious environmentalism.  This paper will discuss examples of religious environmentalism uncovered in fieldwork in Wenzhou, China, a coastal region where self-organizing grassroots religious activities are strong.   It will examine the religious reverence for ancestors and deities of native-place, and the revival of Buddhist vegetarianism and notions of reincarnation that set up trans-generational ethics of kinship across the boundaries between human, animal, and spirits.  The revival of local dragon-boat rowing has also re-connected people with their rivers and lakes, that have become highly polluted through industrial growth. 

Short bio:

Mayfair Yang received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from UC Berkeley.  She has been a faculty member in the Anthropology Department at UC Santa Barbara, and is now a Professor in Religious Studies Department and East Asian Studies Department there.  Yang was Director of Asian Studies at the University of Sydney in Australia, and visiting scholar at the University of Michigan, University of Chicago, Harvard University, Academia Sinica in Taiwan, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Beijing and Fudan Universities in China, and at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany.  She is the author of Gifts, Favors, & Banquets:  the Art of Social Relationships in China, and editor of Chinese Religiosities:  Afflictions of Modernities & State Formation, and Places of Their Own:  Women’s Public Sphere in Transnational China.  Her forthcoming book is:  Re-enchanting Modernity:  Ritual Economy & Religious Civil Society in Wenzhou, China (Duke University Press).  

 

Religious Environmentalism in the Anthropocene: Potentialities & Actualities in Wenzhou, China