Catholicism, Family, and Asian Societies

Valerie  Yeo's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Religious Studies and Theology, Asian History / Studies, Demographic History / Studies, East Asian History / Studies, Anthropology



Catholicism, Family, and Asian Societies

10-11 February 2022, Singapore


This conference investigates how Catholic identities influence the composition and values of contemporary Asian families, the ethical dilemmas they confront and the political contexts in which they engage. Catholicism in Asia is often presented as the religion of a minority, and little attention is given to the ways this world religion impacts the local social fabric. Similarly, Asian Catholics are easily perceived as a periphery of world Catholicism. Although missionaries from Korea, Vietnam, India, and the Philippines are present all around the world, little attention is given to how Asian forms of Catholicism are reshaping world Catholicism today. Thus, through the lens of kinship practices, this conference seeks to discuss the role of Catholicism in the social fabric of Asian societies as well as the contribution of Asian Catholics to world Catholicism.

Historically, kinship networks have been an essential vector to diffuse Catholicism across Asia. In times of political and religious adversity, family circles were an important site of retreat and resistance even when they gradually redefine what Catholicism was for them. On the other hand, Catholicism has often reshaped the traditional family structures of many Asian groups. Through the rejection of polygamy, polyandry, repudiation, and eugenic practices, Catholic authorities have diffused and institutionalized a normative ideal of the family with specific gender roles. Similarly, the introduction of consecrated celibacy had a significant impact on local societies and kinship ideologies.

Today, Asian families are impacted by economic changes, the COVID-19 pandemic, new political ideologies, and globalization. Yet, world Catholicism continues to carry its own understanding of proper kinship relations. When governments legalize divorce, abortion, birth control, family planning, and same-sex marriage, tensions between Catholic communities and policymakers rise. But Catholics around the world do not necessarily deploy the same response to cultural and political changes affecting family structures. With the rising marriage age, fertility concerns, the lower number of children, new educational expectations, and growing generational gap, Catholics in Asia elaborate a wide range of responses that call for methodological inquiries.

To explore relations between Catholicism and Asian families, paper presenters are invited to consider the following questions:

  • How are Asian Catholics constructing their families and gender roles? What are the driven forces that they apply to shape the composition and future size of their family?
  • How are family dynamics and kinship relations used to preserve, redefine, and diffuse specific forms of Catholicism? How are inter-religious marriages approached by the laity, the clergy, and the various rites of Asian Catholicism?
  • How are Asian Catholics relying on ecclesial networks and religious practices to shape and nurture their families? How do they participate in broader socio-political changes impacting kinship norms and expectations? What are the points of tension and cooperation at local, national, and regional levels?
  • How are Catholics responding to the aging reality of some Asian societies? To what extent do birth control practices and new technologies affect the familial and religious life of Catholics across Asia?
  • How is the Catholic clergy – nuns, friars, seminarians, deacons, priests, and bishops— participating in the definition and promotion of kinship practices and gender roles? How distinct are the approaches promoted by specific Catholic movements and orders (Focolare, charismatic communities, Franciscan tradition, etc.)?
  • How are the various sections of the Vatican, as well as the Pope and his diplomatic network across Asia, participating in public debates in Asian societies about kinship norms?
  • To what extent do the various ecclesial traditions of Asian Catholicism— Latin, Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara— share similar kinship ideologies? How are family structures impacting the mutual relations of these ecclesial traditions?

This conference is part of the Initiative for the Study of Asian Catholics (ISAC) – an initiative hosted by the Asia Research Institute.


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (300 words maximum) and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 30 September 2021. Please also include a statement confirming that your paper has not been published previously, it is not committed elsewhere, and that you are willing to revise your paper for potential inclusion in a special issue submission (in collaboration with the conference organizers and other participants). 

Please submit your proposal using the provided template to Ms Valerie Yeo at Successful applicants will be notified by the end of October. Panel presenters will be required to submit drafts of papers (4,000-7,000) words by 10 January 2022. These drafts will be circulated to fellow panelists and discussants in advance. Drafts need not be fully polished. Indeed, we expect that presenters will be open to feedback from fellow participants.

We earnestly hope to welcome all of our conference participants to Singapore early next year. However, given the global pandemic, the conference will accommodate both in-person and online participants as needed, and applicants need not commit to travelling to Singapore. If possible, the Asia Research Institute will provide overseas participants full or partial airfare, as well as three nights of accommodation.


Dr Michel Chambon
Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Contact Info: 

Valerie Yeo
Asia Research Institute
National University of Singapore

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