Religion in times of crisis: Innovative lay responses and temporal-spatial reconfigurations of temple rituals in COVID-19 China

Ningning Chen, Jinwen Chen, Kenneth Dean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about massive changes in religious landscapes across the world. Recent research has focused on whether religions create problems or are sources of solution or support in these extraordinary times. Although some studies document religious leaders’ and institutions’ innovative responses to preserve ritual practices and foster members’ sense of belonging, they fail to highlight lay practitioners’ bottom-up religious transformations. Noting this, this article draws on the case of Lufeng city in south China to examine how local residents inventively reconfigured the temporal-spatiality of their ritual practices during temple lock-downs. Through an ethnographic-style exploration, we reveal multi-faceted spatial changes in the ritual performance, including the reconfiguration of home spaces, the performance of worship practices outside temple doors and the mobilization of digital spaces of communication to accumulate good fortune. Apart from these spatial strategies, local ritual transformation also produces temporal adaptations. Through these temporal-spatial reconfigurations, local residents innovatively cope with new social circumstances and articulate religion’s continual significance. This study foregrounds an agentive and flexible understanding of religion in times of crisis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-308
Number of pages8
JournalCULTURAL GEOGRAPHIES
Volume29
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • bottom-up response
  • China
  • COVID-19
  • religion
  • ritual transformation
  • temporal-spatial reconfiguration

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