Transcendence, sacrifice, and aspiration

This innovative and timely reassessment of political theology opens new lines of critical investigation into the intersections of religion and politics in contemporary Asia. Political Theologies and Development in Asia pioneers the theo-political analysis of Asian politics and in so doing moves beyond a focus on the (Post-)Christian West that has to date dominated scholarly discussions on this theme. It also locates ‘development’ as a vital focus for critical investigations into Asian political theologies. The volume includes contributions by leading anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists. Each chapter brings new theoretical approaches into conversation with detailed empirical case studies grounded in modern Asia. Not only does the volume illustrate the value and import of this approach to a diverse set of contemporary Asian societies and religions, but it also provides a forceful argument for why political theology itself requires this broader horizon to remain relevant and critical. The focus on ‘development’ – conceptualised broadly here as a set of modern transnational networks of ideas and practices of improvement that connect geographically disparate locations¬¬ – enables a fresh and critical analysis of the ways in which political theology is imagined, materialised, and contested both within and beyond particular nation-states. Investigating the sacred dimensions of power through concepts of transcendence, sacrifice, and victimhood, and aspiration and salvation, the chapters in this collection demonstrate how European and Asian modernities are bound together through genealogical, institutional, and theo-political entanglements, as well as a long history of global interactions.

The political theology of development in Asia
Giuseppe Bolotta, Philip Fountain, and R. Michael Feener

This chapter sets out the theoretical framework of this volume. Recent scholarship on political theology has amply illustrated the critical potentialities of examining the ‘religious’ remainder in even the most purportedly ‘secular’ of modern institutions. However, scholarship on political theology to date has primarily involved tracing the presence of Christian theologies within modern Western institutions. By shifting the focus to Asia, this chapter seeks a broader reconceptualisation of the field of political theology, and demonstrates that the political theology of development in Asia makes a vital contribution to our understanding of configurations and genealogies of the political. The focus on development – as a set of transnational networks that connect Western and Asian modernities in complex political and religious entanglements – enables fresh critical analysis of the ways in which the theo-political is imagined, materialised, and contested in and beyond the state. This chapter advances notions of transcendence, sacrifice and victimhood, and aspiration and salvation as particularly valuable analytic categories for understanding how development is lived and experienced within diverse Asian contexts today.

in Political theologies and development in Asia