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Introduction: Globalization and the Religious Field in China, 1800–Present

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Chapter Summary

'Religion', like modernity, science and human rights, has become a globally generalized concept. Since the nineteenth century, it appears as a separate subject in modern discourses across the globe. For both Peter Beyer and Roland Robertson, the development of 'religion' is inextricably linked to the globalization of Western societal modernity. Driven by the civilizing mission of European imperialism, globalizing religion was able to simultaneously draw on the seemingly opposed ideas and institutions of Christianity and secular modernism, the latter espousing a strong emphasis on scientific progress and an all-encompassing role for the state. Recent studies have highlighted the interactional processes that shaped the encounter between European Christianity and non-European civilizations and transformed both the observer and the observed. This is the introductory chapter of the book, which explores a hitherto understudied topic: the transformation of 'Chinese religions' from the nineteenth century to the present, in the context of globalization.

Keywords: Chinese religions; Christianity; European imperialism; globalization; Peter Beyer; Roland Robertson



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