Sheena Sood - The Far-Right's Weaponization of Spirituality Toward Ethnonationalism
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
- KLT, SOAS
About this event
We often hear about yoga’s deployment in corporate settings, educational institutions, and elitist networks. However, in recent years, we have also witnessed a global uptick of yoga’s deployment by far-right governments and political institutions.
Omwashing Yoga: The Far-Right's Weaponization of Spirituality Toward Ethnonationalism brings a critical lens to the use of yoga by far-right political forces. To make sense of how yoga and mindfulness programs are routinely deployed by government and authoritarian leaders in police academies, detention facilities, prisons, militaries, and law enforcement programs, I use a critical feminist and decolonial lens, as well as a combination of archival research, content analysis, and autoethnography as a yoga teacher, to explore how Indian, Israeli, and US state institutions co-opt Asian spiritual traditions to advance their cultural and political agendas.
Peeling back the sociological, historical, and political roots and consequences of the decision to militarize yoga in these contexts, I examine the ethical stakes, political purposing, and consumption of yoga amidst its widespread notions of purity, peace, and positive health. By using yoga to sanitize their reputation, I argue that far-right regimes are allied in a practice of omwashing, or in using yoga as a colonial and ethnonationalist tool to divert the public gaze from their supremacist agendas.
This research illuminates how the depiction of yoga as a “peaceful” practice that can be deployed to help soldiers combat “stress” and cultivate “calmness” serves to promote the dangerous practice of “spiritual bypassing” and legitimize state-sanctioned violence against the marginalized “other.” By using yoga to sanitize their reputation, these far-right regimes are allied in a practice of omwashing, or in using yogic culture as a colonial and ethnonationalist tool that diverts the public gaze from their supremacist agendas.
About the speaker
Sheena Sood is currently pursuing a PhD in the social sciences at Temple University, with a specific focus on the oppressive arms of the yoga industry. Currently, she is exploring the application of yoga and mindfulness by the governments of India, Israel (occupied Palestine), and the US.
Sheena contributed a chapter to Practicing Yoga as Resistance: Voices of Color in Search of Freedom, edited by Cara Hagan, and an article entitled ‘Towards a Critical Embodiment of Decolonizing Yoga‘ in the journal Race and Yoga. Her work is grounded in a principled commitment to social justice, abolitionism, and socialism, and outside of the academy, she works with people, children, collectives, and organisations to help them incorporate spiritual traditions, holistic health wisdom, and wellness practices into their lives.
- Find out more about her wider work.