The prettily packaged marriage of imported spirituality and capitalism in the age of globalization

Lately, I’ve been thinking about cultural appropriation in the West and how that relates to yoga. But first, I want to preface this post by stating that I don’t find cultural appropriation inherently offensive, and in no way am I suggesting that only certain races can follow certain spiritual practices. Nor am I positing any kind of essentialist framework when it comes to race and culture.

With that being said, culture appropriation in N. America by those with privilege, especially white privilege, is undoubtedly risking disrespect. By commodifying other cultures, cultural appropriation can disavow history, or spectacularize history (e.g. like Che Guevara T-shirts) to benefit the appropriating party in a way that often repeats historical power imbalances.

Usually it reinforces colonialist dynamics under a guise of  cultural exchange (although in other cases, as in appropriating N. American subcultures, it is about normalizing them and strangling their radicalism or challenges to the status quo). And today’s hyper-commercial, mashed up and de-historicized identity gives people an easy method by which to evade or sever all ties to the past and to their responsibility for their use of appropriated signifiers (hipster headdresses anyone?).

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