“Prasenjit Duara is one of the most original thinkers on culture and religion in Asia.
A 66-year-old historian of China, he was born in Assam, India, and educated at the University of Delhi, the University of Chicago and Harvard. He later taught at the University of Chicago, Stanford and the National University of Singapore and now teaches at Duke.
Professor Duara began his career with a pioneering study of Chinese religion: “Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942.” This work, published in 1988, helped redefine how many people thought of Chinese religion, showing it to be one of the most powerful forces in traditional Chinese society. His subsequent books reflect a broadening of interests to include topics such as nationalism and imperialism. His latest work, “The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future,” brings many of these strands together, along with issues such as climate change.In a recent interview in Beijing, Professor Duara discussed Buddhist environmentalism, what aspect of religion most alarms the Chinese government and the South Manchuria Railway Company.
This is a beautiful piece about an extraordinary scholar and set of ideas. I am a candidate for his book, “The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future”.
In the historical fiction I am writing about eighteenth-century Vietnam, The Tay Son Rebellion, I apparently missed the social aspects of the temples. I haven’t seen documentation of the way they created large crowds for specific rituals, but there is plenty of evidence in my research and writing that the Viets were more open to outside religious ideas than the Christian missionaries, who benefited from that openness.