Religion, Social Media, and ‘Civil Society' in China

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 16:20
Location: Hörsaal 42 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Francis LIM, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
This paper examines whether religion, through a case study of online Christianity, contributes to the development of civil society in China. It examines how the global interconnectedness of the Internet influences the Christians in China and the diaspora, in terms of how they communicate their faith, build their communities and mobilize for their causes. Herbert  (2011: 633) has noted that electronic media has enabled “wider circulation of religious symbols and discourses across a range of social fields, which tends (even in secularized societies) to move religion out of the differentiated religious sphere to which it is notionally confined in liberal versions of modernity and into various contested public spheres”. The paper discusses whether online social media allows Chinese Christians in the mainland and overseas to engage in religious and socio-political discourses in the same space, and if boundaries between the social and political domains established by the modern secular Chinese state are constantly being blurred and transcended in the process. The paper then examines whether the potential blurring of boundaries between the “religious” and the “socio-political” in the online practice of Christianity enables Chinese Christians to mobilize themselves in respond to socio-political issues, and hence becoming actors in, and contribute to, the development of civil society in China.