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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Secular State and Religious Society: China and Taiwan

With Professor Richard Madsen (University of California, San Diego)

Series: Seminars on Religion and Society

Date: Friday 19 March 2010, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Seligman Library (Room A607), Old Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Professor Stephan Feuchtwang (Taiwan Research Programme)


In his book A Secular Age, Charles Taylor distinguishes three meanings of "secularism", at least as applied to North Atlantic societies: political secularism, which refers to the state's neutrality with regard to religion; sociological secularism, which refers to a decline in religious belief and practice; and cultural secularism, which refers to changed conditions of belief, which make religious belief only one option among others. Can this intellectual framework be applied outside of the North Atlantic world, particularly to Asian societies? In this paper, I will try to fit it to Taiwan and the People's Republic of China. I will argue that the framework is useful for making sense out of many contemporary developments in both of these parts of the Chinese cultural world. Even where the framework does not perfectly fit, the lack of fit is useful for highlighting particular dilemmas faced by Taiwan's and China's governments in an era of political and religious transformation.

About the speaker

Professor Richard Madsen received an MA in Asian studies and a PhD in sociology from Harvard. He is currently Professor of Sociology and Director of the Council on East Asian Studies at the University of California, San Diego and a co-director of a Ford Foundation project to help revive the academic discipline of sociology in China. He has authored, or co-authored, eleven books on Chinese culture, American culture, and international relations, including Habits of the Heart, which won the LA Times Book Award and was jury nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His books on China include Chen Village under Mao and Deng (co-authored with Anita Chan and Jonathan Unger), Morality and Power in a Chinese Village, Unofficial China (co-edited with Perry Link and Paul Pickowicz), China and the American Dream, China's Catholics: tragedy and hope in an emerging civil society, and Popular China: unofficial culture in a globalizing society (co-edited with Perry Link and Paul Pickowicz).