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Converts to Civil Society

Christianity and Political Culture in Contemporary Hong Kong

by Lida V. Nedilsky

Publication Year: 2014

Lida V. Nedilsky captures the public ramifications of a personal, Christian faith at the time of Hong Kong’s pivotal political turmoil. From 1997 to 2008, in the much-anticipated reintegration of Hong Kong into Chinese sovereignty, she conducted detailed interviews of more than fifty Hong Kong people and then followed their daily lives, documenting their involvement at the intersection of church and state.

Citizens of Hong Kong enjoy abundant membership options, both social and religious, under Hong Kong’s free market culture. Whether identifying as Catholic or Protestant, or growing up in religious or secular households, Nedilsky’s interviewees share an important characteristic: a story of choosing faith. Across the spheres of family and church, as well as civic organizations and workplaces, Nedilsky shows how individuals break and forge bonds, enter and exit commitments, and transform the public ends of choice itself. From this intimate, firsthand vantage point, Converts to Civil Society reveals that people’s independent movements not only invigorate and shape religious community but also enliven a wider public life.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Series: Studies in World Christianity


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Half title page, Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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Series Forward

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pp. vii-viii

It used to be that those of us from the global North who study world Christianity had to work hard to make the case for its relevance. Why should thoughtful people learn more about Christianity in places far away from Europe and North America? The Christian religion, many...


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

When I was still a student, a friend both senior and wiser told me that if for no other reward than my education I should be grateful for my years of academic work. That education has taken me to Shanghai and Taichung and Hong Kong, Berkeley and San Diego, Chicago and...

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pp. 1-4

Distance affects perception. That which appears as one thing turns out upon closer proximity and scrutiny to be quite different. Sir David Attenborough, English broadcaster and naturalist, has remarked on this tendency in the natural world. In his intimate investigation of the microcosmos...

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1. A Question of Competence

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pp. 5-30

Statue Square, June 30, 1997: On the eve of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty, rain fell intermittently throughout the day, keeping many people off the streets and out of the parks. Hardly unusual for a holiday, residents of the city packed themselves inside the shopping...

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2. Conversion to Christianity

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pp. 31-64

Understanding conversion is the first step toward understanding Hong Kong civil society. In converting to Christianity, individuals choose to enter a world of voluntary association, with many subsequent choices. Especially in the aftermath of Hong Kong’s modernization, hundreds of...

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3. Conversion to Civil Society

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pp. 65-96

By becoming Christian in Hong Kong, converts accept a distinct lifestyle. They pull away from both the influence and the company of nonbelieving family members and the general society. Whether in a school fellowship, a parish, or an independent church, they build a world based...

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4. The Work of Civil Society

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pp. 97-134

As individuals, Hong Kong Christians move physically and socially from school to fellowship to church and beyond; looking for the right way to show their personal faithfulness to Christianity, they establish a general experience of religious life in Hong Kong. Taken in aggregate...

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5. Passing the Torch

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pp. 135-172

The compelling dynamics of individual choice and commitment that form the backbone of Converts to Civil Society as a study both of real people and of theoretical ideas about engagement in the public sphere were vividly expressed in the earliest interviews. While working in...

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6. The Question of Convergence

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pp. 173-198

As contemporary Hong Kong straddles the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, commitment to organized religious life reveals a complexity not unlike that also faced by the United States in the same period. All of the forces that make for a quest culture—modernity and its discontents...

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pp. 199-202

The question of convergence addressed in chapter 6 pulls observers of religious life away from the focus of Converts to Civil Society: Hong Kong Christians’ individual choices and voices. Convergence draws attention to the patterns shared across individual lives, mutes the distinctions...

Glossary of Terms

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pp. 203-204


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pp. 205-214


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pp. 215-227

E-ISBN-13: 9781481300346
E-ISBN-10: 1481300342
Print-ISBN-13: 9781481300322
Print-ISBN-10: 1481300326

Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Studies in World Christianity
Series Editor Byline: Joel A. Carpenter, Series Editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 881608101
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Converts to Civil Society

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Christianity -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Christianity and politics -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Religion and civil society -- China -- Hong Kong.
  • Civil society -- China -- Hong Kong.
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