Between State and Body: Religious Geopolitics, Cultivation and the Falun Gong
AbstractThis research analyses an ongoing struggle between continually evolving forms of the Chinese Party-State’s religious geopolitics, its repression of the Falun Gong, and FLG followers’ self-cultivation and strategies of resistance to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The PhD begins with a discussion of the Party-State’s strategies of sovereignty and governmentality, drawing upon the works of Foucault and Agamben, and using a documentary analysis. It then examines the FLG’s discursive strategies by comparing scriptures before and after the ban in 1999 to examine how collective subject formation is continually evolving in ever changing political and social contexts. The second part of the study develops Foucault’s discussion about self-care in an Eastern religious context, and is based upon original ethnographic data about FLG cultivators in Dublin, Taiwan and Hong Kong (2012-14). I adopt Foucault’s work on the ‘care of self’, which includes self-examination, self-mastery, to analyse how individuals choose teachings to guide themselves, exercise the power to modify and improve themselves, and also care for others. Through the voices of more than 62 participants and including participatory observation, the study illustrates how individual FLG followers cultivate and transform themselves into spiritual or divine beings. Both Foucault and Master Li Hongzhi, the founder of the FLG, are sceptical about hierarchical power-relationships and pastoral care. FLG cultivation is characterised by individualised actions of self-care, selfmastery and ungovernability, which challenges the Party-State’s religious governmentality. In addition, the CCP’s oppressive sovereignty and legitimacy are confronted by FLG’s reactive ‘telling-truth/saving-life’ activities, which include the use of urban landscapes, the internet, media, artistic peformances and the UN Human Rights system. These projects are mostly organised by individuals and are based upon global cooperation among FLG followers. The PhD demonstrates how FLG’s alternative geopolitical practices of truth-telling at multiple scales, while based upon the principle of caring for others, is integrated into a perpetual and dynamic process of individualised self-cultivation.
Lin, Weihsuan (2016) Between State and Body: Religious Geopolitics, Cultivation and the Falun Gong. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.