Argmentaire de l’atelier: Chinese Religions in France
This panel proposal derives from a collaborative project that aims at providing the first comprehensive description and analysis of religious practices among a Chinese community in a Western country, and their impact on the host society.
The current scholarly literature on Chinese religions in the West is heavily biased towards North America (New York, Vancouver, San Francisco, that all have old and large Chinatowns) where the best studies of religion among migrant Chinese outside of Southeast Asia have been conducted.
Yet, even there, macro-sociological approaches seem to us to obscure the complexity of religious practices among migrants, while studies of Chinese migrants on the one hand and studies of “Chinese religions” among natives (such as Buddhist and Daoist practice groups) on the other are utterly disconnected.
As far as Europe is concerned, the field is basically virgin territory. This may be explained by the fact that most Chinese religious groups do not make themselves highly visible and therefore, do not make identity claims comparable to those of other migrant religious groups that grab headlines on a regular basis.
Yet, as scholars, we cannot avoid the conclusion that understanding the religious and cultural dynamics of the large and growing Chinese population in France is a key to grasping current developments in both French society, and in the Chinese world at large.
The panel is comprised of four papers:
1) The social significance of the Guandi festival on Reunion Island – Live Yu-sion, Université de la Réunion.
Traditionally celebrated within the family or within the Chinese community, the Guandi festival at Saint Denis de la Réunion has since 2004 been opened to the larger public with the organization of cultural events (acrobatics, traditional dances, calligraphy shows, exotic products fair, fashion shows, massages, etc.).
This paper explores the impact of this new type of festival on the larger Reunion population’s understanding and representation of the Chinese community. It shows that the community’s representation depends on how people distort and reinvent the other’s religious practices.
2) Funerary practices among the Chinese in France
Caroline Gyss, CNRS, Groupe Sociétés-Religions-Laïcités (EPHE-CNRS)
Chinese tombs in French cemeteries exemplify Chinese people’s choice to settle in France.
In Paris, they are either scattered in old cemeteries such as the Père-Lachaise, or gathered in several large sections in the suburban Thiais cemetery; but in any case, the style, decoration and graphic material linked with these tombs give many clues to the origin and beliefs of people buried there.
Moreover, the strong presence of Chinese families at their relatives’ tombs on calenderical festivals testifies to their will to accommodate Chinese traditions to diasporic contexts.
3) Chinese Buddhism in France: Religion, Immigration and Globalization, JI Zhe, INALCO
Since the end of the 1980s, various types of Chinese Buddhist places of worship have been established in France, as a result of both the increasing immigration from the Chinese world and the expansion of transnational Buddhist organizations.
This phenomenon raises questions not only about the globalization of religion, but also about the socio-cultural effect of religion on globalization.
4) Chinese Temples and Gods in France – FANG Ling, CNRS, Groupe Sociétés-Religions-Laïcités (EPHE-CNRS)
Since the 1970s, the number of ethnic Chinese from China and Southeast Asia has grown very rapidly in France.
These people do not constitute a homogeneous population, but are distinguished by their place of origin within China. Such distinctions are expressed in dialects used but also in religious practices.
Indeed, in Chinese culture, communities (notably kin-based, local, regional and professional ones) are organized around the worship of their own gods.
Chinese migrants as a rule take their gods with them, and first place them in their homes and shops. Then, Chinese people from a common origin start to organize and build shrines for these gods. A further stage is reached when several such shrines cooperate for festivals and processions, as is now the case in the Paris 13th district Chinese New Year parade.
This paper will retrace the process of Chinese gods settling in a migrant community as it unfold in the case of Paris, show that it evinces a remarkable vitality of Chinese traditional religion and raise the question of its acceptance within the local religious landscape.
Chairperson & discussant: Vincent Goossaert, EPHE-CNRS
Voir le site du colloque.