“Richard Madsen is one of the pioneers of Chinese religious study in the West. He has looked at many different practices, and written a lot about Catholicism, but in this book he looks at Taiwan’s political democratisation in the 80s. He shows that Buddhist groups like Fo Guang Shan, Tzu Chi and Dharma Drum Mountain were all part of a rise of civil society – somewhat similar to the Catholic Church in Poland during the Cold War, helping to undermine authoritarian control, but indirectly. There wasn’t a figurehead like Pope John Paul II, but they did help to pluralise society, and to spread ideas of equality. When I was in Taiwan in the 80s and 90s, people were starting to complain that the government shouldn’t be able to park their cars illegally, or to embezzle money. Some people in China think that, but they don’t speak out as openly about it as people in Taiwan did.” Read more...
The best books on Religion in China
“This is a book that I’ve gone back to again and again over the years. Charles Stafford is trying to give you a sense of the ordinary, everyday processes of learning in a fishing village in Taiwan, so at a very localized level. The everyday practices are very focused on building a sense of filial responsibility and duty towards your family, about reciprocal roles and obligations. That’s how you become a moral person. It’s not done through explicit teaching, it’s done through ‘ostensive learning.’ Cultural acquisition through everyday interactions is key. As a route to adulthood, he contrasts that ordinary knowledge with the explicit knowledge that’s taught, in a much more organized fashion, in school contexts — where they’re trying to teach children to be a part of a nation.” Read more...
The best books on Children
Development & Aid Workers (see also Economists)