In this talk Liz Bucar uses the framework of appropriation to unpack the ethics of yoga. What does it mean to insist yoga is a spiritual but not religious practice? Are we entitled to borrow any practice in the pursuit of our personal health? What forms of structural injustice does the popularity of yoga depend on and reinforce? A leading scholar of religious ethics, Bucar draws on her own experience becoming a certified Kripalu yoga instructor to explore the moral risks of intercultural borrowing. She argues that when we ignore the core religious beliefs of the faithful and commodify their practices, we risk further marginalizing minority groups and reinforcing social inequities.
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.
This lecture is part of the Big Questions series on social issues past and present. UCSIA developed this series for the Antwerp city festival Baroque Influencers.
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.
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.
Shilpi Pandey, 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.
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