I just gave a Zoom seminar to Hong Kong Baptist University’s Department of Geography on my book. The talk was titled The Secular Sheet of Scattered Sand: Cantonese Protestants and the Postsecular on the Pacific Rim.
I really enjoyed the conversation that followed. There were so many good friends in the audience. One thing that stood out to me was how, even though the concerns of my book are capped at the year 2012, how much conversation we managed to have about the Hong Kong protests over the last five years, as well as the emergence of nationalisms that might fray the Pacific Rim in the 2010s. Somebody even asked me about the song ‘Sing Hallelujah to the Lord’ and inquired if that was perhaps a form of ‘secular Christianity.’ I said that I had written a piece on The Immanent Frame with exactly that framework. This was, among the many highlights of the conversation, a particularly joyful moment.
Indeed, I insist on this 2012 cap on in my first book project precisely because I am interested in this book on how Cantonese Protestants operated in the heyday of post-1980s Pacific Rim ideology. My next project will be much more about how some have said that it’s all falling apart, even though, as I once said in another version of this talk to my colleagues at my home institution, the Pacific Rim dream might be better described, in the words appropriated from The Princess Bride, as ‘mostly dead,’ as opposed to ‘all dead.’ There I really got my comeuppance. One of my deans noticed that I had attributed the quote to Mad Max. It was, of course, Miracle Max who said these words. The two Maxes are very different, and if one claims professional interest in post-1980s ideology, the eighties references really have to be right. I do, after all, also teach Blade Runner.
I am thankful to Claudio Delang and Lachlan Barber for inviting me. With so many friends across our departments, I deeply look forward to when our paths will cross again.