Deterritorialization and localization: Capital-linked migrants and transnational Buddhism in Shanghai (completed)

Weishan Huang

Taiwan has served as an important source of emigration contributing to religious revival in China since its opening to outside influences. This project examines the reproduction of religious beliefs and practices carried out by Taiwanese merchants in the intersection of transnational migration and the global division of labor under urban aspirations in Shanghai. Tzu Chi teaching, as a reformed Buddhist practice, was brought to Shanghai by transnational Taiwanese merchants in the early 1990s. Due to governmental restrictions in province-level municipalities, religious practices are invisible in public spaces, but they are vitalizing private spaces in Shanghai. The roles urban religious institutions play in adapting to city regulations are especially pressing for faith groups. This project examines strategies of religious practices and discourses among Taiwanese immigrants as well as the shift of religious practices and discourses among Tzu Chi’s newly converted local practitioners. The concept of localization refers to the localization of faith practice, whereby the eight case studies conducted in different districts in Shanghai and Suzhou reveal the different approaches and stances adopted by capital-linked migrants towards integrating this transnational Buddhism into their businesses, as well as propagating it in the host society. The study reveals that sustainable development and environmental protection have translated economically into the practice of thrift in the use of electricity and other resources as well as raw material conservation in manufacturing. Tzu Chi cultivation teaching has translated into the concept of self-management to control or re-direct the questionable excessiveness, if not greed, of employers, as well as to instruct or even discipline employees.

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