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Ascetic Culture

Renunciation and Worldly Engagement


Edited by K. Ishwaran

The collection of papers in Ascetic Culture: Renunciation and Worldly Engagement was entirely conceived and developed by K. Ishwaran, who died in June 1998. The original concept was to focus on "Tradition and Innovation in Monastic Life in South Asia", a topic which combined two of Ishwaran’s major interests: comparative studies of the monastic systems of south Asia, and criticism of Western anthropological and sociological assumptions of tradition and modernity being antithetical, especially with regard to traditional religions.
Ishwaran saw this collection of papers as reinforcing the "demise of universalistic projects, all encompassing grand master narratives and similar globally integrative, theoretical or empirical enterprises in social discourse" flowing from the post-structural and post-modernist revolutions in the social sciences. Later he conceived of broadening this topic to be more liberally comparative, to include major religious traditions around the world. The new title was to be "Tradition and Modernity in Monastic orders in Contemporary Societies". Finally, he broadened the theme to the present title of his collection.

Taken together, the articles appearing in this book strongly support Ishwaran’s theses. First, is the obvious point that eremitism and asceticism are far more complex than commonly understood in the scholarly world. If ever a general understanding of these interrelated phenomena is developed, careful examination not only how they are found in these cultures and traditions but also study of their particular manifestations in individual movements, places, cultures, social groups etc. must take place. The second thesis is clearly established by the range of these papers: ascetic traditions are not only inimical to modernity, they may be found at the heart of certain contemporary social and cultural developments.

K. Ishwaran has rendered the study of religion in particular and the social sciences in general an important service with this anthology.

Contributers are John E. Cort, Alan Davies, Balkrishna G. Gokhale, Daniel Gold, Shaman Hatley, Sohail Inayatullah, Klaus K. Klostermaier, David Miller, S.A. Nigosian, Jordan Paper, and Earle H. Waugh.

Mediating Piety

Technology and Religion in Contemporary Asia


Edited by Francis Khek Gee Lim

A timely and groundbreaking work, here is a comprehensive analysis of the interactions between religion and technology in Asia today. How does the use of technology affect people's experience of spirituality and the formation of religious identity and community? How do developments in the latest technological breakthroughs such as the Internet influence the ways people constitute themselves as social beings, and how does it shape their experience of the sacred and the divine? Conversely, to what extent, and in what ways do religious beliefs and practices shape people’s attitude towards new technology and its deployment? Combining wide-ranging empirical investigations and sophisticated theoretical reflections, this book demonstrates how the technological and the religious often intersect with the political, thereby elucidating the complex relationships between spirituality, social and identity formation, sovereignty and power.

Vineeta Sinha

Book Reviews / Asian Journal of Social Science 37 (2009) 843–846 845 Geoffrey A. Oddie (2006) Imagined Hinduism: British Protestant Missionary Constructions of Hinduism , 1793−1900. New Delhi: Sage Publications. 374 pages. ISBN 0-7619- 3487-1. This is an impeccably crafted book that is grounded

Judith Schlehe

importantly, their convictions and practices exist both side by side with world religions and in opposition to them. I have met paranormal men and women, poor and rich, with various ethnic affiliations and from all the religious backgrounds officially recognised by the Indonesian state: Islam, Protestantism


Dustin Wiebe


The Balinese Christian minority has struggled to culturally identify themselves as “Balinese.” Beginning in the 1990s, kebalian (Balineseness) has been a marker of ethnic legitimacy in Bali. This notion has been and continues to be couched in a discourse of difference: the Hindu Balinese vis-à-vis the majority Muslim culture of Indonesia. Balinese Christians are thus left out of the picture.

This chapter explores the development of Protestantism in Bali and the gradual independence of the Bali Church from international Christian denominations. To further this goal, Balinese Christian leaders have enacted a policy of “contextualization” whereby Balinese models of architecture, liturgy, and performing arts are privileged. Further, the Balinese dance drama, sendratari, which usually presents excerpts from Hindu epic literature to mass audiences, has been appropriated for the presentation of Christian stories in the formation of a Christian Balineseness. Within this effort, Balinese Christians and Hindus interact, share, and renegotiate their relationship.

Asia in the Making of Christianity

Conversion, Agency, and Indigeneity, 1600s to the Present


Edited by Richard Fox Young and Jonathan A. Seitz

Drawing on first person accounts, Asia in the Making of Christianity studies conversion in the lives of Christians throughout Asia, past and present. Fifteen contributors treat perennial questions about conversion: continuity and discontinuity, conversion and communal conflict, and the politics of conversion. Some study individuals (An Chunggŭn of Korea, Liang Fa of China, Nehemiah Goreh of India), while others treat ethnolinguistic groups or large-scale movements. Converts sometimes appear as proto-nationalists, while others are suspected of cultural treason. Some transition effortlessly from leadership in one religious community into Christian ministry, while others re-convert to new forms of Christianity. The accounts collected here underscore the complexity of conversion, balancing individual agency with broader social trends and combining micro- with macrocontextual approaches.

Christen T. Jonassen

Weberian thesis on the relationship between the Protestant Ethic, capitalism and economic development. Materials from various cultures seem to support Weber, but suggest that the crucial factor in economic development is not necessarily THE PROTESTANT ETHIC, but any ethical system which produces the