Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Theology Department, Boston College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2004
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Religion, Harvard University
How to Subjugate a God: The 'Banner-Writing Invocation of General Yin' in Contemporary China

Since the economic boom and the liberalization of political policies toward religion in the early 1980's, Daoists have been drawing on ritual traditions that had been suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party since the late 1950's to rebuild the liturgical life of their communities. My research will attempt to understand and explain an aspect of this phenomenon by documenting a major liturgy, called the kaiguang liturgy, which is presently being performed again by Daoists in Hunan province. Using ethnographic methods, I will provide thick description and interpretation of the theological and cosmological significances of the ritual forms and movements in this complex liturgy. Using archaeological and sinological methods, I will trace the history of the ritual. This work will test the hypotheses that this liturgical form is specific to Hunan province, and that the liturgy can be understood as coming out of the religious ferment of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). Along the way, rigorous theoretical justification for the relationship between liturgical performance and historical text will be delineated. The project is designed to make contributions both to the ethnographic record of contemporary Daoist ritual and to the way in which we understand that ritual as part of a living tradition of Daoist liturgy.