China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel examines the ways in which death and its rituals are reconceptualized in Chinese-speaking Asia in response to cultural shifts and changing political economies. This includes issues of resistance and resilience within alternate Chinese-speaking modernities in the PRC, Singapore, Taiwan, and Tibet. The panel opens with an exploration of boundary making and boundary crossing in Sino-Burmese-Tibetan Borderlands and the ways in which these traditions are adopted and adapted in the context of contemporary requirements from the Chinese State. We then examine the state’s desire to promote individualist commemorations in contemporary China after the marketization of death by pointing to the resilience of social conventions on the ground. We discuss Chinese mortuary rites in Singapore in relation to the cultural and psychological meanings of sartorial choices as an expression of sorrow that identifies layers of kinship as well as ethnic identities of Chineseness in the Singaporean context. The panel concludes with an exploration of visual meaning in the context of debates surrounding the practice of funeral strippers who perform on Electric Flower Cars in Taiwan. Taken as a whole, these papers explore the rich tapestry of death rituals in Chinese-speaking Asia. This journey reminds us that religious modernity has many times, places, and meanings. We are also witness to the ways in which funerary rituals reflect shifting economic structures and governmental expectations in relation to a heightened emphasis on consumerism, as well as cultural innovations that flow from rural to urban settings, and back again.