Alice Chi-ying Wang
In the heat of the hottest Hoosier summer in decades, the Center on Religion and Chinese Society completed preparations for the Workshop of Chinese Spirituality and Society Program in mid July 2012. A long overdue rain cooled off the temperature just in time to welcome the workshop participants consisting mainly of university professors and two Ph.D. candidates from various regions of China. They hailed from the northern province of Heilongjiang to Hong Kong and then to Macau in the south and from many provinces in between. During the first three weeks, the workshop took place on the campus of Purdue University, featuring morning lectures on the subject of how to publish papers in international journals. In the afternoon, the participants reported on their progress of their research projects, shared their insights, and discussed the problems they had encountered. During the weekends, arrangements were made for participants to visit a number of local religious institutions. In the fourth week, the workshop traveled to Washington DC to meet with scholars from Georgetown University and the Berkeley Center, and to visit well-known religious institutions there. (Click HERE for detail)
The focus of the 2012 workshop was on learning how to publish in international journals with the hope that the results of these Chinese scholars’ research would eventually be presented to international readers. Professor Fenggang Yang, director of CRCS, invited renowned scholars and journal editors from the U.S. and abroad to speak on the format and the process of publishing as well as to share their insights into publishing in international journals. Among these scholars, Professors David Palmer and André Laliberté gave their lectures in Chinese.
On the first day of the workshop, Professor David Palmer from Hong Kong University took the podium to talk, in fluent Chinese, on his experience turning a 2009 conference paper into an article entitled, “Gift and Market in the Chinese Religious Economy,” published in the British journal Religion （41:4 pp. 569-594）in 2011. During his lecture, Professor Palmer frankly acknowledged his dissent from Professor Fenggang Yang’s concept of a “religious market,” hence, his respectful gratitude to Professor Yang for inviting him to talk at this workshop despite their disagreement on this subject. Following Professor Palmer’s lecture, there were questions and answers, as well as a heated discussion on the “religious market.” This free exchange of ideas from a wide range of perspectives points to the academic vitality and the search for deeper and broader knowledge which shows the essence of an institution of higher education such as Purdue University.
Just as the workshop kicked off with Palmer’s lecture in Chinese, it concluded with another lecture in Chinese delivered by Professor André Laliberte of the University of Ottawa, Canada. Laliberté shared his experience of publishing articles in English and French in European journals. In his second lecture, Professor Laliberte talked about his research in mainland China and his experiences as a guest editor for a scholarly journal.
On July 25 and 26, Professor Yang selected two of his articles, “Lost in the Market, Saved at McDonald’s: Conversion to Christianity in Urban China” and “Mapping Chinese Folk Religion in Mainland China and Taiwan,” both published in The Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion in 2005 and 2012, respectively, as examples of the entire process of writing and publishing. Also, from his personal experience, Professor Yang told the audience how he responded to unfavorable comments and biased editors and eventually prevailed in gaining confidence in the academic community in the U.S.
The day before his scheduled lecture at Purdue on July 27, Professor Roger Finke from Pennsylvania State University arrived at the airport only to find his flight canceled. Undeterred by this unexpected incident, he drove more than ten hours from the airport in Pennsylvania to Purdue. His lecture, “Publishing in Social Science Journals” covered basic but probing questions such as, “What makes an idea publishable?” and various aspects of the submission process.
“Why publish at all?” Professor Adam Yuet Chau from Cambridge University opened his lecture with this question on August 2. That afternoon, Professor Bin Chen from Hunan Province was scheduled to give his progress report. In his research, Prof. Chen adopted Chau’s theory. This workshop made it possible for these two scholars from the opposite sides of the earth to exchange ideas face to face.
Professor George Hong from Purdue University Calumet and co-director of CRCS talked about his strategy for publishing in international journals and introduced the newly developed CRCS project on spatial studies of religion and society by showing how space-time data in different formats and sources can be used in this cutting edge research.
Professor Rhys Williams, Professor and Chair of Sociology at Loyola University and editor of The Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion and Patricia Wittberg, Professor of Sociology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and editor of The Review of Religious Research presented their lectures from the unique perspective of insiders. As valuable as their comments and suggestions were, what impressed the audience most was the dedication of all the scholars in the academic community, who served diligently, selflessly, and faithfully to sustain the high standard of scholarship demonstrated by the quality of these journals.
The afternoons were devoted to progress reports by the workshop participants. These sixteen scholars and their research plans were selected from a large pool of proposals submitted by scholars from all over mainland China. On July 23, the progress reports started with Xiangping Li, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Studies of Religion and Society at East China Normal University in Shanghai. His research focused on the issue of faith and religion in the Yangzi Delta. Consisting of two provinces and sixteen major municipal areas including Shanghai, Nanjing, and Hangzhou, the Yangzi Delta has been one of the most fertile and populous regions in Chinese history. Professor Li’s research, begun in 2011, has successfully completed 3,000 questionnaires. Currently, the team is working on data analysis, which, when completed, will make a major contribution to the understanding of the socio-religious demographic of this vital region in China.
Professor Shangyang Sun of Beijing University reported on this topic: “University Students’ Attitude Toward Religion in Beijing.” The target of his research was approximately 600,000 graduate and undergraduate students in 55 universities and colleges in Beijing. Professor Sun pointed out that in the 1920s, the movements of college students in Beijing had a great impact on the Nationalist government’s policy making on religious issues. Sun’s study delineated the contours of faith and spirituality of the students in the institutions of higher education in Beijing.
In the following days, a series of progress reports were given by researchers from various parts of China on a variety of religions, including Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, and Chinese folk religions. As all the research approached the stage of completion, a number of projects began to emerge with high quality investigations and promising contributions to the academic community.
Onsite Visits and Time to Relax
The workshop scheduled visits to local religious sites including Kossuth Street Baptist Church, St. Thomas Aquinas Center (the Catholic Center at Purdue), and St. Mary’s Cathedral, all in the greater Lafayette area, as well as a trip to the Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. The participants were deeply affected by the sacred ambiance created by the beautiful architecture of St. Mary’s Cathedral and were impressed by the eloquent African American preacher at the Willow Creek Church.
The relaxing moments were highlighted by two gatherings at the conclusion of the workshop at Purdue. On the evening of Friday, August 10, to show gratitude toward the staff of CRCS, the participants prepared a potluck dinner featuring over thirty dishes as each “household” worked hard to clean out their refrigerators before leaving town. The amateur chefs’ magic touches turned this “last supper” into a feast. The next day, Professor Yang invited everyone to his house for BBQ and Chinese dumplings. The rich menu was surprisingly graced by the fresh grapes from the vines overhanging Professor Yang’s deck and tomatoes from his backyard garden.
The three weeks flew by as the workshop participants packed for their next destination, which was Washington D.C. During the time at Purdue, everyone received an abundant harvest from the guest speakers’ lectures and from the exchange with each other over research theories, methods, practices, and personal experiences. Perhaps one day in the future when all the results of these projects are published for Chinese and international readers, and when we look back at this time, we will fully appreciate the value of this academic community and those who sustain it with their talents and efforts.