Cluster leader: Susan Andrews, Mount Allison University
Women’s significance in the economic life of East Asian religions is widely recognized but not yet well understood. This is in part because sources foregrounding their participation in this sphere very often remain outside official canons. Histories of the intersections between economics and religion in the region oftentimes prioritize monks, monasteries, male courtiers and rulers because these are the sites and settings that dominate the sources with which we have been working.
The From the Ground Up “Market and Merit” research cluster endeavours to fill this scholarly lacuna, reconstructing the diverse ways women have been active in the economics of religious life in East Asia. Between 2019 and 2022, we will document, collate, and disseminate records of women donors preserved at centers of devotion to popular female deities in northern China, Korea, and Vietnam. These will include Bixia yuanjun 碧霞元君 in northern China, Gwan-eum (Hangul: 관음) in South Korea, and Thánh Mẫu (聖母) in Vietnam. Working with Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese partners, we will convene a conference to explore how patterns of giving by women overlapped and differed at centers of devotion in East Asia. This meeting of established and junior scholars, as well as graduate and undergraduate students, will result in at least one conference volume exploring women donors and the economics of East Asian religion.