Peter van der VeerDec 7, 2015
The Modern Spirit of Asia
The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India
Princeton University Press 2013
What are the differences between religion, magic, and spirituality? Over time, these categories have been articulated in a variety of ways across differing cultures. However, many assume that the multiple understandings are merely derivative of western assertions about secular modernity. In The Modern Spirit of Asia: The Spiritual and the Secular in China and India (Princeton University Press, 2013), Peter van der Veer, director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, explores how Chinese and South Asians interpreted western discourses about religion and spirituality. Through his work he demonstrates that cross-cultural comparison provides us with a complex interactional history, where non-western participants shape their own visions of society, nation, and self, often in dialogue with westerners but not dependent on them. In our conversation we discussed scholarly conceptualizations of Asian traditions, secularism, European imperialism, Mohandas Gandhi, nationalism, modern interpretations of Buddhism and Daoism, Christian Missionaries, political spirituality, religious minorities and the state, and Chinese and Indian modernities.