Religion and Politics in China

Chinese Catholic Priest presiding at service

This research started with my Ph.D. dissertation research. Based on extensive fieldwork in rural Guangdong and archival research, I examined how transnational processes shape social life in a local Hakka (a diaspora Chinese ethnic group) Catholic community. With the liberalization of the Chinese economy following the ascension of Deng Xiaoping to power in 1977, Chinese society has dramatically transformed nearly every aspect of everyday life. Many issues, such as the role of transnational religious organizations, continue to be contested both within China and between China and other nations as postsocialist structural adjustments mature. On one level, my research addressed the connection between a local, resurfaced Chinese Catholic Church to the global Church and how Catholicism is practiced under an avowedly atheistic political system that in the past (and to some extent today) has persecuted Catholics. On a more theoretical level, I explored what modernization and globalism mean to Hakka villagers in a remote area of southern China. A multiplicity of transnational processes – diasporic ethnicity, Catholicism, global capitalism, and popular media – converge in the social life of these villagers and are made local through a variety of social mechanisms that I explore throughout my dissertation. This ethnography was published by Stanford University Press in 2001.