© 2019

The Secular in South, East, and Southeast Asia

  • Kenneth Dean
  • Peter van der Veer

Part of the Global Diversities book series (GLODIV)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Kenneth Dean, Peter van der Veer
    Pages 1-12
  3. Peter van der Veer
    Pages 37-50
  4. David A. Palmer, Fabian Winiger
    Pages 83-105
  5. Tam T. T. Ngo
    Pages 215-237
  6. Kenneth Dean, Peter van der Veer
    Pages E1-E1
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 313-325

About this book


This innovative edited collection provides a comprehensive analysis of modern secularism across Asia which contests and expands prevailing accounts that have predominantly focused on the West. Its authors highlight that terms like ‘secular’, ‘secularization’, and ‘secularism’ do not carry the same meanings in the very different historical and cultural contexts of Asia. Critiquing Charles Taylor’s account of secularism, this book examines what travelled and what not in ‘the imperial encounter’ between Western secular modernity and other traditions outside of the West. Throughout the book, state responses to religion at different points in Chinese and South-East Asian history are carefully considered, providing a nuanced and in-depth understanding of post-secular strategies and relations in these areas. Particular attention is given to Catholicism in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Singapore, and Hinduism and Chinese religion in Malaysia, Singapore, and India. This theoretically engaged work will appeal to students and scholars of Asian studies, anthropology, religious studies, history, sociology, and political science.


secularization post-secular Asian Catholicism Chinese Buddhism Charles Taylor re-enchantment confessional state communism Jesuit accommodation colonialism religious nationalism sacralisation popular religion religious freedom folk belief Chinese communal religion secular governance Ethnography religious networks

Editors and affiliations

  • Kenneth Dean
    • 1
  • Peter van der Veer
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Chinese StudiesNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Religious DiversityMax Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic DiversityGöttingenGermany

About the editors

Kenneth Dean is Professor and Director of Chinese Studies at National University Singapore.

Peter van der Veer is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany, and Distinguished University Professor at Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

Bibliographic information


“An ambitious engagement with Charles Taylor’s magnum opus: A Secular Age, taking issue with his Eurocentrism. Several essays counter Taylor’s vision of uni-directional development of secularism with examples of the re-enchantment of contemporary Asian nation-states, capitalist institutions, and popular religion. The communal nature of Asian popular religions problematize Taylor’s narrative that secularization occurs through the “buffered self.” This book is an indispensable companion or corrective to Taylor – it tells the story of secularism in Asia, from where a huge chunk of human population and capital now hails.” (Mayfair Yang, Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA)