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Authors: Doshay, Harris Winter
Advisors: Truex, Rory
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Authoritarianism
Church and State
Religion and Politics
Subjects: Political science
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation explores Chinese religious boundaries, how believers perceive them, how they are circumvented, and how they affect solidarity. Drawing on a year of ethnographic fieldwork in Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) Churches, I study the day-to-day religious activities of TSPM members, investigating three related questions. First, I examine how political considerations affect the choice to join a church. My findings with Protestants show that, since new believers know little about internal church politics, political considerations are rare, and only come into play for a small subset of believers with some Party involvement. Second, I investigate how TSPM elites circumvent dictates and carve out an independent space in order to remain attractive to congregants. Utilizing data collected during services on the number of sleeping attendees, I demonstrate that political, areligious sermons are penalized by napping members. In order to remain popular, religious elites quietly buck control, sermonizing on forbidden topics like proselytizing or finding ways to engage in unsanctioned religious education. In the final empirical chapter, I examine the effect of the TSPM on the ability of Christians to come together in solidarity when facing repression. While the prior chapters show how members perceive the TSPM as apolitical and seek to subvert political control, this chapter shows how the TSPM still manages to achieve the state’s goal to control religious movements. Utilizing interviews, I show that the increased legibility entailed by registered with the TSPM causes believers to fragment in the face of repression rather than come together in solidarity. Overall, this dissertation enhances the field’s understanding of co-opting institutions and the constant re-negotiations they engage in with the state.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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