What is the relationship between syncretism and diaspora? Caodaism is a large but almost unknown new religion that provides answers to this question. Born in Vietnam during the struggles of decolonization, shattered and spatially dispersed by cold war conflicts, it is now reshaping the goals of its four million followers. Colorful and strikingly eclectic, its “outrageous syncretism” incorporates Chinese, Buddhist, and Western religions as well as world figures like Victor Hugo, Jeanne d’Arc, Vladimir Lenin, and (in the USA) Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.
The book looks at the connections between “the age of revelations” (1925-1934) in French Indochina and the “age of diaspora” (1975-present) when many Caodai leaders and followers went into exile. Structured in paired biographies to trace relations between masters and disciples, now separated by oceans, it focuses on five members of the founding generation and their followers or descendants in California, showing the continuing obligation to honor those who forged the initial vision to “bring the gods of the East and West together.” Diasporic congregations in California have interacted with New Age ideas and stereotypes of a “Walt Disney fantasia of the East,” at the same time that temples in Vietnam have re-opened their doors after decades of severe restrictions.
Caodaism forces us to reconsider how anthropologists study religious mixtures in postcolonial settings. Its dynamics challenge the unconscious Eurocentrism of our notions of how religions are bounded and conceptualized.
Source : University of Hawaii Press
- Réf. : Janet Alison Hoskins, The Divine Eye and the Diaspora: Vietnamese Syncretism Becomes Transpacific Caodaism, Honolulu, HI, University of Hawaii Press, 2015, 308 p.
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Janet Alison Hoskins is professor of anthropology and religion at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Her books include The Play of Time: Kodi Perspectives on History, Calendars and Exchange (1996 recipient of the Benda Prize in Southeast Asian Studies) and Biographical Objects: How Things Tell the Stories of People’s Lives (1998). She is the contributing editor of four books: Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (with Viet Thanh Nguyen, University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014); Headhunting and the Social Imagination in Southeast Asia (1996); A Space Between Oneself and Oneself: Anthropology as a Search for the Subject (1999); and Fragments from Forests and Libraries (2001). She served as president of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion from 2011 to 2013, and has produced three ethnographic documentaries (distributed by www.DER.org), including « The Left Eye of God: Caodaism Travels from Vietnam to California” (2008). She has been a visiting researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; the Anthropology Department, Oslo, Norway; the Southeast Asian Studies Center, Kyoto, Japan; and the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.