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Title: Inhabiting secularity and postsecularity: Christianity, neoliberal transition, and the intersectional experiences of migrant workers in Shenzhen, China
Authors: Gao, Quan
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis contributes to geographies of secularity and postsecularity by examining Christianity and the experiences of migrant workers in Shenzhen, China. In the post-reform era, China appears to be caught in a contradictory dual process – the entrenchment of the secular values and, simultaneously, the notable revival of all forms of religiosity. I argue that this dual transition has opened up new possibilities for examining the relations between secularity and religion beyond the Western trajectory of modernization. This thesis first provides a dialectical analysis of secularity and postsecularity, which views them as distinctive yet mutually constituted epistemologies and conditions of being. I argue that geographers can significantly advance the understanding of secularity and postsecularity by offering geographical knowledge on: (1) the political-ideological project of secularity and how it is inhabited by individuals in the specific process of place-making; (2) what and how new postsecular subjectivities are engendered by, and co-constituted with, secular conditions of being; and (3) the wider socio-spatial conditions where variegated forms of secularity and postsecularity may be re-configured. To address these efforts, this thesis also engages with neoliberalism and intersectionality as analytical tools to explore the complex social and power relations from which secularity operates but also from which new religious subjectivities and agency may emerge. These inquiries are examined by in-depth ethnographic research with Christian migrant workers in Shenzhen. I elucidate how migrant workers constitute their religious subjectivities by drawing on Christian resources and ethics, which enable them to come to terms with, but also sometimes to reframe and counteract, the neoliberal secularity that normalises them as productive, docile, governable, yet alienated, subjects. In particular, I focus on how migrant workers’ negotiations of religion, class, gender and adulthood mutually shape one another in such a way that postsecular subjectivities and agency are engendered. Although workers’ intersectional religiosity is integral to, and indeed constitutive of, the way in which secularist state developmentalism, autocratic power, and neoliberal labour relations are legitimated, lived and reinforced, it nonetheless also implies a possibility of postsecular reflexivity, which sets an affective condition on the ways that secular powers and normalised subjects actualise as a part of migrant workers’ everyday life. Above all, this thesis not only sheds lights on the specific configurations of secularity and postsecularity in China, but also establishes an intersectional approach to secularity and postsecularity.
Description: Ph. D. Thesis.
Appears in Collections:School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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