In contrast with Weberian prophesies concerning rationalization, secularization and disenchantment there is a growing awareness that the world is embracing a plurality of modernities that are often defined as religious rather than secular (Hefner 1998; Van der Veer 1996). This is evidenced by the growing social visibility of religious beliefs and practices in the public sphere (Casanova 1994; Turner 2006a) and - within Europe - by enhanced religious plurality as a result of migration and religious experimentation (Katzenstein, Byrnes 2006; Turner 2006b). Yet, in spite of Asad's (1993;2003) analysis of religious and secular categories as genealogically and historically connected, Eurocentric assumptions of religion as a discrete category denoting a separate domain of social and cultural practice still dominate scholarly and public debate. Thus, conceptual dichotomies between the religious domain and this-worldly, secular domains of political and economic practice are kept in place. As secularization in Europe is historically connected with the separation between church and state, one could question whether Western categories of religion and the secular make sense in other parts of the world (Kipnis 2001; Turner 2006a).
It would be interesting to study Southeast Asia, especially post-Revolutionary Vietnam, as a veritable religious laboratory. In Vietnam's impressive ‘religioscape' (cf. Appadurai 1996; Turner 2006a) more or less institutionalized religions like Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Sinitic religious ideologies of Confucianism and Daoism are practiced side by side with local community religions or in combination with spirit or ancestor worship. As a hotspot of neoliberal globalization and rapid cultural change Vietnam constitutes a promising field for studying contemporary religion. Raymond Lee asserts that secularization in Asia assumes the form of individualization of religious choice and a concomitant competition for local religious ‘consumers' in a globalized religious market that is both local and simultaneously integrated into national spheres and transnational networks (Lee 1993; Turner 2004; Salemink 2007b). In Vietnam it is not just religious ‘market forces' that influence the context for religious choice, but also various degrees of state prescriptions and proscriptions in the religious field (Malarney 1996a;2002; Salemink 2003b).
In the proposed book I shall explore forms of (re)enchantment and sacralization in contemporary Vietnam, looking at ways in which religious and ritual traditions take on novel forms by sacralizing and ritualizing economic and political practice in the context of market and state integration and transnationalization. In particular, I explore how religious traditions and ritual processes (pilgrimage, festivals, spirit mediumship, state rituals) that are usually studied as discrete phenomena borrow from and influence one another when studied as everyday human practice rather than institutionally or theologically. In everyday life, practices commonly glossed as religious are intimately linked with practices considered to discursively and institutionally belong to the different - economic or political - domains. Existential anxieties are increasingly linked up with market uncertainties and articulated through transactional forms derived from the market paradigm and through aesthetic forms circulated through the arts and the media (Salemink 2007b). Similarly, political risks are mitigated through ritual or ritualized action (Salemink 2007a). The book will show that economic, political and religious practice - usually construed as separate societal categories - are guided by similar notions of the sacred and of sacralization, thus providing a vista of social and cultural life under a series of overlapping ‘sacred canopies' (Berger 1990).