Stating the Sacred

Religion, China, and the Formation of the Nation-State

Michael J. Walsh

Columbia University Press

Stating the Sacred

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231193573

272 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $30.00£24.00

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231193566

272 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $95.00£74.00

Pub Date: February 2020

ISBN: 9780231550390

272 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $95.00£74.00

Stating the Sacred

Religion, China, and the Formation of the Nation-State

Michael J. Walsh

Columbia University Press

China’s constitution explicitly refers to its sovereign domain as “sacred territory.” Why does an avowedly secular state make such a claim, and what does this suggest about the relations between religion and the nation-state? Focusing primarily on China, Stating the Sacred offers a novel approach to nation-state formation, arguing that its most critical element is how the state sacralizes the nation.

Michael J. Walsh explores the religious and political dimensions of Chinese state ideology, making the case that the sacred is a constitutive part of modern China. He examines the structural connection among texts (constitutions, legal codes, national histories), ostensibly universal and normative categories (race, religion, citizenship, freedom, human rights), and territoriality (the integrity of sovereignty and control over resources and people), showing how they are bound together by the sacred. Considering a variety of what he refers to as theopolitical techniques, Walsh argues that nation-states undertake sacralization in order to legitimate the violence of establishing and expanding their sovereignty. Ultimately, territorialization is a form of sacralization, and the foundational role of the sacred makes all nation-states religious states. Stating the Sacred offers new ways of understanding China’s approach to legality, control of the populace, religious freedom, human rights, and the structuring of international relations, and it raises existential questions about the fundamental nature of the nation-state.
Preface
1. Territory
2. Constitution
3. Religion
4. Reincarnation
5. Contact
6. Nativity
Glossary
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Michael J. Walsh is associate professor of religion and Asian studies at Vassar College. He is the author of Sacred Economies: Buddhist Monasticism and Territoriality in Medieval China (Columbia, 2010).