Positioning Yoga: Balancing Acts across Cultures

By Sarah Strauss | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1 Re-Orienting Yoga
1. See, for example, Eliade (1973 [1958]; O'Flaherty (1984); Varenne (1976); Zimmer (1984[1926]).
2. But see especially Alter (1997) and DeMichelis (2004) for detailed discussions of yoga practices in India in traditions other than that of Sivananda.
3. Most of the scholarly treatments of yoga (Eliade 1973[1958]; B.S. Miller 1996; Varenne 1976) deal primarily with text rather than practice; notable exceptions include work by Alter (1997) and Castillo (1994).
4. These are both philosophical traditions within the broad history of “Hinduism”; the texts include the Yoga Vashista, among others.
5. These are the so-called “heretical” paths; the founders of these paths see them as radically distancing from the classical Hindu tradition, although from within the brahmanical position, they are seen as part of the endless variability encompassed within the Hindu context.
6. For extended academic discussions of the use of bodily practices, including yoga, for nationalist purposes, see Alter (1992, 1997, 2004).
7. For an overview, see Kearney (1995). See also Appadurai (1990, 1996); Featherstone (1990); Glick Schiller et al. (1992, 1994); Hannerz (1992, 1996); Rouse (1992).
8. In focusing on yoga, a set of ideas and practices which theoretically transcends caste lines, I am in some ways sidestepping one of the central concerns of South Asian anthropology. Ethnographies of India prior to the 1980s tended to focus on the caste relations in village society (e.g. Marriott 1986[1955]; Pocock 1973; Srinivas 1976; Wiser and Wiser 1971), choosing economic or religious concerns as the central organizing issue. The question of hierarchical ranking of Brahman and Ksatriya (or local dominant caste), Priest and King, posited by Dumont and others, has been bandied about for several decades. In the anthropological literature, we find ongoing debates concerning the relationship between caste and class, and questions about the possibility for a truly non-South Asian example of a caste system. While Dumont (1980) focused on the caste system and its defining feature of ascribed hierarchy as the central concept of Hindu society particularly, and South Asian society more generally (in that even nonHindus are incorporated into the caste system), others (Appadurai 1988a;


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