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Doctoral Project

Bibles, Hymns, and Video Clips—Media Practices of Chinese Christians in Germany and France
Xinzi Rao (M.A.)

My project explores the media practices of Chinese Christians in Germany and France, bridging the fields of media studies, religious studies, migration studies, and anthropology.

Studies of religion often ignore what Chen calls religion’s “transformative capacity” in a migratory context, concentrating instead on thought. Inspired by religious studies scholars David Morgan and Colleen McDannell, this project focuses on what Chinese Christian migrants do rather than what they think. My analysis of everyday media practices of Chinese Christians challenges Bourdieu’s notion of habitus as a fixed feature of social class; instead, it insists on the temporality of habitus and the formation of transcultural sensory dispositions over time.

My ethnographic fieldwork has enabled me to develop a thick description of how media, including but not limited to Bibles, hymns and video clips, are produced, distributed, and received in the context in which Chinese Christian fellowships operate in Germany. Discourse analysis and content analysis shed further light on the transcultural nature of the respective media. For example, Bibles may be marked up, filled with multilingual marginalia, greetings and vocabulary lists, and thus help to express feelings, trigger memories, and make statements. Some hymns are revised from traditional folk music, then practiced, recorded, and enjoyed by Chinese fellowships throughout Germany. Moreover, hymns are uploaded online, together with numerous convert videos, and thus made available for translocal viewers.

The primary purpose of this multi-sited ethnographic project is not to create any problematic binary opposition between Germany and France; rather, I aim to avoid both methodological nationalism and consideration of specificities as mere reflections of general cultural context. In doing so, I will offer a non-essentialist yet feasible way to map the mediascape with all its transcultural entanglements and flows.