Infrastructures of Faith: Religious Mobilities on the Belt and Road
An international project funded by the Collaborative Research Fund of the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (C7052-18G), 1 June 2019- 31 May 2022.
This project will seek to explore the following research question: what is the religious impact of China’s intensification of ties and infrastructures linking it to the rest of Asia, now subsumed by the Chinese government under the label of the “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)”? An unintentional effect of the BRI is to facilitate and intensify religious circulations between the nations of Eurasia. Religion is central to the culture and national identity of most BRI and adjacent countries, and, often, their political system and ideology as well. Other than business, religion is the main motivation for the sustained circulation of organized groups between Asian countries. In the past, the lasting impact of the Silk Road was primarily in the realms of both commerce and religion.
The project will investigate the following dimensions of the question: (1) the circulation and penetration of religious networks, personnel and practices between Eurasian countries and China; (2) the construction of religious, ethnic and civilizational identities as a consequence of intensified relationships between Asian cultural Others; (3) the entanglement of physical and social infrastructures, in a context of state securitization and geopolitical tensions.
The project will develop critically needed expertise for Hong Kong, China and Asia on the religious dimensions of Belt and Road nations and their implications for relations with the Chinese world, with applications in the fields of public policy, education, and intercultural and interreligious understanding. It will form an international, interdisciplinary team of scholars in anthropology, geography, sociology, history, political science and religious studies, who will conduct workshops and case studies on transnational religious circulations between China and Asian countries relating to Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Chinese religion and new religious movements, that will be situated within broader historical and geopolitical contexts.
The project will form three research groups, each of which will focus on one of the following themes: (1) Hubs; (2) Infrastructures; (3) Strategies. Each group will conduct a series of case studies focusing on (1) networks and organizations; (2) centres of transnational activity and circulations, (3) borders and strategic routes as locations for the negotiation of state power and flows of people and ideas. Case studies will be located in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.