In July 2011, Dr. Steve Pavey published a book based on his ethnographic research of Hong Kong theologies embodied within the political-economic context of the Hong Kong transition from British to Chinese power.
Theologies of Power and Crisis: Envisioning / Embodying Christianity in Hong Kong
By Stephen Pavey
Theologies of Power and Crisis provides a case study for Eric Wolf’s research directive to better comprehend the interplay of cultural (webs of meaning) and material (webs of power) forms of social life. More specifically, the book demonstrates how theological discourse and practice engage with historical and material relations of power. It has been normative to speak of power in terms of political and economic processes and theology in terms of interpretive and symbolic experiences. This work breaks new ground by linking theological ideas with political-economic processes in terms of the structural relations of power.
Ethnographically, this research investigates the theological processes of Hong Kong Chinese Christians during a period of significant social change and crisis, precipitated by the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997. It shows how local Christians and Christian institutions mediated the significant regional, national, and transnational forces of political-economic change by connecting theological practice to the structural relations of power. The Christian response was a contested process closely intertwined with the broader contested processes of social organization.
This study develops an understanding of Christianity that goes beyond ecclesiastical hegemony to encompass struggles over human practice, meaning, and representation in relation to the changing political-economic context. These findings implicate religious ideas and practice as significant to an understanding of social inequalities and powerlessness by connecting ideologies to material conditions. Christian ideas may be used to legitimize an oppressive social order or they may be used to liberate those who are oppressed. Issues related to the policies and practice of development should take seriously the role of religious beliefs and practices.
Endorsements & Review
“I was drawn to anthropology in the early 1980s through the work of such cutting-edge anthropologists/missiologists as Charles Kraft, Jacob Loewen, Charles Tabor, Alan Tippett, and Ralph Winter. While obviously influenced by these early innovators, Stephen Pavey is part of a new era of younger missiologically informed anthropologists. His ethnographic study of the church in Hong Kong is both anthropologically sound and missiologically important, and is a great addition to the small yet growing literature on the anthropology of Christianity.”
Professor of Cultural Anthropology
Asbury Theological Seminary
“With Theologies of Power and Crisis Pavey successfully extends anthropological analysis to new realms as he contributes to our understanding of Christian Asia. He demonstrates the intellectual value of ethnography in our quest to understand the world around us. It is an excellent example of anthropology engaged in the world. Perhaps this work will teach and influence those involved with cross-cultural practices in a variety of settings.”
-from the afterword by John van Willigen
Professor Emeritus of Anthropology
University of Kentucky
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