Catholic and Modern in a Chinese Village: Young Adults “Keeping the Faith”
Eriberto P. Lozada Jr.
Anthropology Program, Butler University
(paper given at the 2001 AAS Annual Meeting in Chicago)
In a rural Hakka village in northern Guangdong, Catholicism survived over thirty years of persecution during the Maoist period due to the leadership of Catholics who were raised when American Maryknoll missionaries and Catholic rituals were a part of everyday life. Catholicism remained underground during the Maoist period, but resurfaced in 1983 under the leadership of these “martyred” generations. Since then, new generations of Catholics who largely grew up in the reform era are beginning to assume leadership positions in the village and region, facing different challenges to their Catholicism than their elders — global capitalism, deterritorialization, and intensive consumption patterns. Based on fieldwork conducted in a Catholic village in Jiaoling County, Guangdong between 1993-2000, this paper will examine how young adults fit Catholicism and modernity together in their pursuit of the good life. As participants in the flow of labor from rural villages to the regional centers of global capitalism in southern China, these young men and women are developing a uniquely Chinese modernity as they work and play, while adhering to the faith of their fathers. How have young adults reconciled the different visions of the good life promoted by their church, their state, and the possibilities experienced through global media? How have their experiences growing up in post-Mao China shaped their attitude towards the local church, as they gradually assume more influential leadership roles? This paper will address how their different strategies reflect the redefinition of religious practices in a Chinese society that emphasizes economic development.