Reviewed by: Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: Indigeneity
Secondary Theme: Inclusivity
This Author-meets-Critics panel considers the recent work of David Palmer "Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and the Predicament of Modern Spirituality" (University of Chicago press 2017).
Over the past few decades, Daoism has become a recognizable part of Western “alternative” spiritual life. Now, that Westernized version of Daoism is going full circle, traveling back from America and Europe to influence Daoism in China. Dream Trippers draws on more than a decade of ethnographic work with Daoist monks and Western seekers to trace the spread of Westernized Daoism in contemporary China. David A. Palmer and Elijah Siegler take us into the daily life of the monastic community atop the mountain of Huashan and explore its relationship to the socialist state. They follow the international circuit of Daoist "energy tourism," which connects a number of sites throughout China, and examine the controversies around Western scholars who become practitioners and promoters of Daoism. Throughout are lively portrayals of encounters among the book’s various characters—Chinese hermits and monks, Western seekers, and scholar-practitioners—as they interact with each other in obtuse, often humorous, and yet sometimes enlightening and transformative ways. Dream Trippers untangles the anxieties, confusions, and ambiguities that arise as Chinese and American practitioners balance cosmological attunement and radical spiritual individualism in their search for authenticity in a globalized world.
This session will undertake a careful reading of Palmer's significant text from different thematic areas, bringing together established and emerging scholars working in India and China to consider a comparative framework for understanding the role of religion in the contemporary Asian world. Mayfair Yang (UCSB, environmental anthropology), Jie Yang (Simon Fraser University, eco-psychology, consumption lifestyles), Tulasi Srinivas (Emerson College, religion and globalization), and Gordon Mathews (Chinese University, Hong Kong, Culture and identity, migration), with David Palmer (Hong Kong University, religion and circulations) responding.