Why shopping for our spirituality
in all corners of the world can be a problem
The case of yoga
Lecture by Liz Bucar on 3 May 2023
Have you ever followed a yoga class? If the websites of western yoga schools and fitness centres are to be believed, it has nothing but benefits: it relaxes body and mind. It strengthens your muscles, improves your posture, increases your flexibility, …
But did you know that yoga originated in the Hindu tradition? Not as a sport or to relax after a busy working day, but as a religious exercise to get closer to the divine. Is it okay to strip a religious practice of its spiritual meaning and borrow it for our personal well-being?
Religious ethicist Liz Bucar looks at this question through the lens of cultural appropriation. She draws on her own experience as a certified Kripalu yoga teacher to explore the moral risks of cross-cultural borrowing.
After the lecture, writer and theologian Jonas Slaats and Indian lawyer Shilpi Pandey join us on the sofa for an engaging conversation on contemporary spirituality.
About Liz Bucar
Liz Bucar is an award-winning author and professor of religion at Northeastern University in the USA. In her latest book, Stealing My Religion, she unpacks the ethical dilemmas of a messy form of cultural appropriation—religious appropriation—asking what the implications are for borrowing the religion of others. As Bucar continually tests the limits of borrowing dress, doctrines, and rituals from Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, occasionally reflecting on her own missteps, she comes to a surprising conclusion: the way to avoid religious appropriation isn’t to borrow less; it’s to borrow more.
About Jonas Slaats
As a theologian and writer, Jonas Slaats (Ghent, 1980) always moves on the intersections of religion, politics and mysticism. After his philosophical, anthropological and theological studies, he engaged in various forms of local and international peace work with a focus on human rights, multiculturalism and interreligious dialogue. Professionally today, he works as a teacher of philosophical subjects in higher education. In his latest book, Religion Revisited, he punctures the most persistent misconceptions about religion and with his podcast series, Groetjes uit Shambhala, he casts a critical eye on various facets of contemporary spirituality.
About Shilpi Pandey
Shilpi, a qualified Indian lawyer, is currently a Doctoral researcher at the Faculty of Law and Criminology at VUB. Having worked in India, she moved to Europe to pursue her academic ambitions and holds an Advanced master’s in international and European Law. Her research focuses on the intersection of religion, gender, and colonial knowledge production in the context of women’s rights. Shilpi has published her work in various journals and books, with her most recent contribution titled Brown Women Saving Brown Women – Setting New Narratives of an ‘Acceptable Voice’ published in the Journal of Critical Southern Studies. Being a researcher from India, she possesses first-hand knowledge of the religious and cultural practices of Hinduism and is also an avid yoga practitioner.