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Symposium on the modern spirit of Asia

A symposium on Peter van der Veer’s The Modern Spirit of Asia: The Spiritual and Secular in China will be held on Sunday, March 2, 2014 from 1:30 to 6 p.m. in 219 Aaron Burr Hall at Princeton University. The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the Program in East Asian Studies (EAS), Program in South Asian Studies (SAS), the Department of Religion, and the Center for the Study of Religion.

*Media who would like to attend should RSVP by February 28, 2014 to Jayne Bialkowski at or 609-258-2635**

The symposium will assess van der Veer’s book, which was published by Princeton University Press in 2013, from different disciplinary perspectives. It begins with an address by van der Veer, who is director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, followed by responses from Joseph Ananda Josephson, chair and associate professor of religion, Williams College; Richard Madsen, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego; and Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University; and a roundtable discussion.


About the Participants
Peter van der Veer is an anthropologist who has conducted fieldwork in India, the Netherlands, and China.  A prolific author and editor, his books focus on Indian society and on comparative issues, among other topics.  In addition to his position at the Max Planck Institute, he is also a Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University. In 2013 van der Veer gave the Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures at the University of Rochester on the topic of comparison.

Jason Ananda Josephson’s research interests include the history of Japanese religions and theory and articulating new research models for religious studies. He scholarship has concentrated on Japan in the Edo and Meiji eras (1600-1912), and he has worked on the importation of the Euro-American concepts of “religion,” “science,” and “secularism” into Japan and traced the sweeping changes—intellectual, legal, and cultural—that followed. His most recent book, The Invention of Religion in Japan, was published in 2012.

Richard Madsen was a codirector of a Ford Foundation project to help revive the academic discipline of sociology in China.  He is the author or coauthor of numerous books on Chinese culture, American culture, and international relations. He has also written scholarly articles on how to compare cultures and how to facilitate dialogue among them. His best known works on American culture are those written with Robert Bellah, William Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven Tipton: Habits of the Heart (1995) and The Good Society (1991). These books explore and criticize the culture of individualism and the institutions that sustain it. Habits of the Heart won the Los Angeles Times Book Award and was jury nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Saskia Sassen's research and writing focuses on globalization, including social, economic and political dimensions; immigration; global cities, including cities and terrorism; new technologies; and changes within the liberal state that result from current transnational conditions. Her books include The Mobility of Labor and Capital (1988); The Global City (1991); Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (2006); and When Territory Exits Existing Framings (forthcoming).

Stephen F. Teiser, symposium organizer, is D.T. Suzuki Professor in Buddhist Studies and Director of the Program in East Asian Studies at Princeton University. He specializes in the history of Buddhism and Chinese religions. His latest book, coedited with Morten Schlütter, was Readings of the Platform Sūtra, published in 2012. His current research focuses on Chinese Buddhist practice and medieval liturgical manuscripts.

For more information contact Jayne Bialkowski, or 609-258-2635.