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Accepted Paper:

Cyber religious merit- merit economy as digital capital in China and beyond  
Kai Shmushko (University of Amsterdam)

Short abstract:

Beyond the material profits on commodities in religious sites, such as prayer beads, emulates and bubble tea, this paper discusses another facet of capital- Buddhist Merit. The paper explores how through the digitalization of religious tourism and goods, a form of cyber-merit is being produced.

Long abstract:

Spiritual and religious tourism has in the past two decades developed into an economic sector in the PRC. Capital runs through the hands of devoted pilgrims, believers, spiritual seekers, near-temple shop owners, and local officials all taking part in the growing transnational economy around sacred places of traditions such as Mazuism, Buddhism and Daoism (Zhang 2021; Shepherd 2018). Parallelly, scholars have noted cyclical patterns of digital capital that have transmigrated to the online sphere, affected physical spaces and vis-à-vis (Zhang Roast & Morris 2022), among them, heritage and religious spaces (Shmushko 2023). Beyond the material profits on commodities offered in religious sites, such as prayer beads, charms, emulates, and bubble tea, this paper discusses another facet of capital- Buddhist Merit. The paper explores how through the digitalization of religious tourism and goods, a form of cyber-merit is being produced. Cyber-merit, in this multifaceted, transnational spatial context, can be seen as cultural and spiritual digital capital (Park 2017) accumulated by Chinese netizens, with the mediation of Chinese social media platforms.

Traditional Open Panel P293
Unveiling Chinese digital capital in global mobilities and encounters
  Session 1 Friday 19 July, 2024, -