Synopses & Reviews
The popularization of yoga and meditation, public curiosity about shamanism, and the recent craze for kabbalah all demonstrate the rising appeal of these religious resources in western contemporary societies. What is it about them that fascinates the Westerns who take the classes and join the centers? Religious exoticism implies a deeply ambivalent relationship to otherness and to religion itself: traditional religious teachings are uprooted and fragmented in order to be appropriated as practical methods for personal growth. As a consequence, religious exoticism tells us as much about the ways in which religious resources are disseminated globally as it does about the construction of the self in contemporary societies.
From Yoga to Kabbalah explores how these "exotic" religious resources cross cultural boundaries and become global, what makes them appealing in western societies, and how they are instrumentalized and for what purposes. Véronique Altglas uses the two case studies of the Hindu-based movements in France and Britain since the mid-1990s, and the Kabbalah Centre in France, Britain, Brazil and Israel. She draws upon major qualitative and cross-cultural empirical investigations to conceptualize religious exoticism and offer a nuanced and in-depth understanding of its contemporary significance. Ultimately, the book enhances understanding of the globalization of religion (how religions are disseminated transnationally), syncretism and bricolage (how religions are modified through cultural encounters), and of religious life in neoliberal societies (how contemporary forms of religiosity reflects core features of contemporary social life).
"This book is pioneering, important, critical, and timely. It shows that Kabbalah Centres in four different countries and neo-Hindu movements in France and Britain raise some fascinating theoretical questions which challenge conventional thinking about bricolage, religious exoticism, and psychological self-realization. The combination of lively ethnographic detail and conceptual precision is truly impressive and will appeal to all readers with interests in social, religious, and cultural logics." --James A. Beckford, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Warwick
Religious exoticism implies a deeply ambivalent relationship to otherness and to religion itself: traditional religious teachings are uprooted and fragmented in order to be appropriated as practical methods for personal growth. Western contemporary societies have seen the massive popularization of such "exotic" religious resources as yoga and meditation, Shamanism, Buddhism, Sufism and Kabbalah. Véronique Altglas shows that these trends inform us about how religious resources are disseminated globally, as well as how the self is constructed in society. She uses two case studies: the Hindu-based movements in France and Britain that started in the 1970s, and the Kabbalah Centre in France, Britain, Brazil, and Israel. She draws upon major qualitative and cross-cultural empirical investigations to conceptualize religious exoticism and offer a nuanced and original understanding of its contemporary significance. From Yoga to Kabbalah broadens scholarly understanding of the globalization of religion, how religions are modified through cultural encounters, and of religious life in neoliberal societies.
About the Author
is Lecturer in Sociology at Queen's University Belfast. She has conducted research on the transnational expansion of neo-Hindu movements and the Kabbalah Centre, the management of minority religions in France and Britain, and anti-Semitism.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Cultural and Historical Dimensions of Religious Exoticism
Chapter 2: Religious Exoticism, Belonging and Identities: the Discomfort of Bricolage
Chapter 3: Universalizing and De-contextualizing Exotic Religious Resources
Chapter 4: Universalistic Ambitions, Local Realities: Bricolage in (national) context
Chapter 5: The Psychologization of Exotic Religious Resources
Chapter 6: Bricolage and the Social Significance of Self-realization
Chapter 7: Religious Exoticism and the "New Petite Bourgeoisie"