Pamela Winfield compiled, edited, and wrote the Contributing Editor's Introduction to a specially-themed issue of Cross Currents Journal on “Religion in Asia Today”, vol. 61 no. 3 (Sept. 2011) pp. 286-421.
It is also published online at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cros.2011.61.issue-3/issuetoc
This condensed version of the Introduction offers a precis of the content but omits the conceptual linkages amongst articles.
This issue of CrossCurrents focuses on the modern challenges facing Asia today and to the creative ways in which religions of the region are responding to natural, social and global stressors. Levi McLaughlin (Wofford College, SC) underscores the religious ethos at the heart of secular Japan as it begins to rebuild after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Environmental scholar, activist and documentary filmmaker Mark McGuire (John Abbott College, Montréal) analyzes the transformative potential of eco-pilgrimage for modern-day seekers in Japan. Laurel Kendall (American Museum of Natural History, NY) elucidates the linkages between the global economy and local religious practice as she takes up the urban-rural divide and other effects of globalization in South Korea after the IMF crisis of 1997-98. Jennifer Eichman (Moravian College, PA) features four pioneering Buddhist nuns in contemporary Taiwan who have been inspired by so-called humanistic or engaged Buddhism (renjian fojiao in Chinese). Amanda Huffer (University of California-Riverside) looks at the rhetoric of “spirituality” as opposed to “Hinduism” in transnational female guru movements, and identifies the grave ramifications of this seemingly innocuous discursive move given the physical and ideological displacements of today’s global immigration flows. Florian Pohl (Oxford College of Emory University, GA) situates contemporary education debates in Indonesia within the 20th century’s main ideological trends of democratization and Islamification, and argues that religion, politics and public life in Indonesia are never far apart. The topic of religion and politics culminate in Pamela Winfield’s final interview with Arjia Rinpoche (Tibetan-Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, IN), who at the time of his defection in 1998 was the highest-ranking lama to leave Communist-occupied Tibet since the Dalai Lama.
These essays thus touch upon the environmental, hyper-urban, economic, gendered, educational and political dimensions of religion in Asia and “transnational Asia” today. They offer a snapshot collage – a postcard from the first decade of the twenty-first century – that sheds light on some of the most pressing issues and inspiring responses to religious life in the region and beyond.