The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies <p>The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies (CJAS) is a refereed academic journal. It focuses on the socio-cultural, political and economic transformations of contemporary Asia.</p> en-US (Vera Skvirskaja) (Claus Rosenkrantz Hansen) Sun, 01 May 2022 00:00:00 +0000 OJS 60 Plastic Asia <p>This introduction to the special issue of Plastic Asia emphasises the ambiguous and unsettling materiality of plastics. It describes how in Asian contexts, the relationships between plastics, purity and pollution are complex: simultaneously promising purity, quality and hygiene, yet frequently failing to fulfil these promises. It looks at how plastics, for some, have come to signify broader frustrations with modernity and the complexities of plastics when they are incorporated into ritual life.</p> Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko, Trine Brox Copyright (c) Sat, 30 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0000 Plastics in the Pandemic <p>Anti-plastic discourses have been gaining momentum in the last two decades, increasingly prompting plastic control policies and plastic avoidant behaviour. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has brought a profusion of single-use plastics and plastic packaging. What can this change tell us about shifts in subjective experiences of risk in an environment of hypervigilance? The case of India reveals that the pandemic has shifted attention among the middle class from the uncertain, future risks of plastic toxicity toward the more immediate risks brought by COVID-19. It also illuminates how plastics are implicated in the logics of ritual pollution that inform frameworks of secular hygiene. For middle-class consumers, plastics function as a boundary between the outer world of the Other and the inner world of the Self, and the use of plastic packaging becomes a token gesture that provides a sense of protection in the face of a heightened awareness of vulnerability.</p> Gauri Pathak Copyright (c) Sat, 30 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0000 Can Pollution Bring Balance to the Hidden Land? <p>Cham, a distinctive masked ritual dance, is undertaken biannually at Pemayangtse Monastery, a Buddhist institution in Sikkim, a Himalayan state in northeast India. These ritual performances are intended to dispel negative forces and create the conditions of prosperity and health for all of the beings – including humans, spirits and deities – resident in Sikkim’s sacred landscape and throughout the cosmos. The efficacy of ritual dances is intertwined with the context of the performances and the materiality of the dancers’ costumes. This article will engage debates over cham’s changing materiality. In particular, it will focus on the recent introduction of fibreglass masks in Pemayangtse’s ritual dances to explore connections between changing ecologies, notions of toxicity and pollution and ritual economies in Sikkim. While Buddhist authorities express anxiety about the substances involved in creating fibreglass, they also appreciate its affordability and durability. Artists who work in fibreglass see the material as a fast way to work. The dancers, on the other hand, express concern about how changes in the physicality of dancing with these masks may interfere with ritual efficacy. These debates are illustrative of broader concerns about the impact of changing ecosystems on interdimensional relations in the Himalayas.</p> Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia Copyright (c) Sat, 30 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0000 Plastic Purity and Sacred Dairy <p class="TNRStandard"><span lang="EN-GB">By investigating the growing use of plastics within Mongolian dairying, this paper explores emerging microbial/social assemblages as they relate to local and imported ideas of purity and hygiene. Although many Mongolian herders prefer to use dairy equipment made from materials such as wood and hide, these items are increasingly being replaced by plastic ones. As new infrastructure connects northern herders to more extensive markets, it presents challenges for herders and for the microbial communities with whom they co-exist, placing herders under increasing pressures to compete with large-scale dairy enterprises that brand, package and distribute standardised dairy products. Looking at the changing material culture of Mongolian dairying and its relationships with microbial communities, this paper examines two emergent notions of purity: the first in which sterility is generated and contained and the second in which living dairy is harnessed and grown. </span></p> Björn Reichhardt, Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko Copyright (c) 2022 Björn Reichhardt, Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko Sat, 30 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0000 Plastic Skinscapes in Tibetan Buddhism <p>This article takes as its point of departure S. Brent Plate's (2012) compelling metaphor ‘the skin of religion’ to discuss the increasing presence and impact of plastics in the sphere of religion. What material and imagined properties of plastics allow them to be incorporated into the sacred domain? How are plastics experienced? What are the consequences of plastics’ increasing presence? The discussion pivots around observations of three forms of plastics used in contemporary Tibetan Buddhism: (1) acrylic shells protecting sacred text, (2) polyethylene jars containing votives and (3) silicone imitations of Buddhist lamas. The article focuses on the skinscapes co-constituted by these plastics, focusing on the affordances and enactments of plastics in the religious field, not only in terms of how acrylic, polyethylene and silicone are experienced, but also how they enact their material properties even beyond our sensual experiences of them. While the plastic materials protect and prolong the precious items that they contain or imitate, they also raise discussions about disposability, non-perishability, pollution and material doubt.</p> Trine Brox Copyright (c) Sat, 30 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0000 Christina Schwenkel, Building Socialism: The Afterlife of East German Architecture in Urban Vietnam. Durham: Duke University Press, 2020. 432 pp, with illustrations. ISBN 9781478012603 Minh Chau Lam Copyright (c) Sat, 30 Apr 2022 00:00:00 +0000