Workshop « Religious Transformations in Modern Southeast Asia » — Hanoi (Vietnam), 02-05/10/2013

The research network « Dynamics of Religion in Southeast Asia » (DORISEA) and the Vietnamese Institute of Culture and Art Studies (VICAS) hold a joint interdisciplinary workshop at the VICAS in Hanoi from October 3-5.

Information about the programme and the presenters can be found here: In case you are interested in attending the workshop, please contact us via


The entire region of Southeast Asia is engaged in an accelerated change in the political, economic, social, medial and ultimately religious spheres. As such, the region is marked by transformations in the concept of religion and in religions themselves. During the workshop, key areas of these transformations will be identified and theorized.


I. Transformation of religion(s) in public spaces
Religions are becoming more visible. This is most evident is urban areas, for example through new or newly renovated temples and churches. There is a noteworthy disposition towards monumental constructions, as seen in the mega churches and large Buddhist complexes. The changes in design and utilization of these spaces are aligned to processes articulated in urban areas: tourism, temple festivals, « re-spiritualization » (i.e. feng shui practices), and the revival of pilgrimage practices. Along with this is the transformation (and occasional commodification) of religious architecture and ritualism in the rubric of cultural heritage. One observable feature is the transformation (and sometimes commodification) of religious architecture and ritualism in cultural heritage. The booming real estate market is an indicator of the fundamental shift in economic structures in urban areas and accordingly has an effect on religious dynamics in public spaces.

II. Religious transformation via mass media.

Mass media, radio, television and the internet have given religion a “new face” and new media formats are forcing a shift in religious teachings. In the field of entertainment – TV soaps, blockbuster movies, even in talent shows, etc., – religion assumes a direct or « disguised » role. One cannot separate the dynamics of religion changed by the media from the influence of secular powers such as state-funded education programs or in tourism marketing, which are also spread by the media, influence religious thought and perceptions and are embedded in history and identity constructions.

III. Religious transformation in rituals

Current forms of socio-economic differentiation have far-reaching implications not only on the religious needs of individual believers, but also on the socially determined dynamics of religious practice. The newly formed growing middle class is characterized by specific religious and aesthetic needs which are embedded in specific educational contexts and work and living situations. According to one thesis, the hardships of modernity are compensated through a market of religions and increasingly through an amount of spiritual offers that are usually articulated in rituals. Hence the rituals of traditional religion are adapted to current needs which result in increasing and new specifically constructed forms such as global yoga, wellness and meditation. As such, traditional living and work contexts that were once bound to religious and ritual implementation are now subject to profound changes. Beyond the factors of the middle class milieu one must investigate a pluralised socio-cultural milieu and the shift in the social and economic structures of ritual communities and their consequences on religious practice.

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