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Afterword: On Global Nation-states and Rooted Universalisms

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image of European Journal of East Asian Studies

How far can wings of belief carry us? What kinds of new social and moral systems evolve out of transnational religious movements? The recent literature on globalisation has shown only little interest in religion, in spite of the cutting-edge global role of beliefs like evangelical Christianity. The literature has attended even less to the movement of non-Western traditions. We do, however, have numerous alternative models of how global ideas in general spread: they can seep through the cracks within and between systems of control based in nation-states; they can flow through mobile cosmopolitans with a global sense of belonging; they can reside in diasporas centred around the idea of a common homeland; they can exist in the institutions of transnational villages; and so on. These various images of global culture are not mutually exclusive, of course, and none of them alone captures the full complexity of the possibilities. Here I want to explore briefly just two dialectical relationships that characterise some of the features of the transnational Chinese religions discussed in the essays collected here. The first is the relationship between global culture and the continuing institutional power of the nation-state. The second is the counterintuitive combination of universalising beliefs with a strong sense of rootedness in specific places or ethnicities.


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