China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Intersecting with each other, religion and city are crucial sites where social power is generated, deployed, and institutionalized. This panel provides a cross-disciplinary conversation on varieties of “sacred places,” from late imperial to contemporary China. We not only see religions as spiritual beings but also explore their spatial structures in given social, political, and economic settings. Likewise, various cities and trans-city networks are not merely made by the urban dwelling but also structured by rituals, symbols, and migrants. Through the lens of “religious landscape,” this panel probes into key questions such as empire and state building, social mobilization, urban transformation, and the cross-continental migration. Historian Nianshen Song discusses Tibetan Buddhist temples in Mukden, Manchuria and argues that they constructed a multi-layered power nexus that promoted the sacredness of the Manchu capital and associated Manchuria with Beijing and Inner Asia. Sociologist Yang Zhang studies urban mosques and tombs of Sufi saints in Northwest China during the Muslim rebellions in the mid-nineteenth century. He demonstrates the critical role of spatial ecologies of the organizational networks in Islamic mobilization. Historian Ji Li examines the transformation of downtown Chongqing in Southwest China in the last century. Her case of Jiangbeicheng shows the creation of a modern urban center through the state-church interactions. Anthropologist Nanlai Cao investigated the Chinese evangelical networks that connect Wenzhou (Southeast China) and European cities. Such a trans-continental link, he argues, mirrors the split between the peripheral local and the global center in the global market economy.