SOAS University of London

Centre of Yoga Studies

Farah Godrej

Farah Godrej

Date: 7 December 2021Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 7 December 2021Time: 7:15 PM

Venue: Virtual Event Room: Online

Type of Event: Talk

Freedom Inside? Yoga and Meditation in the Carceral State


Farah Godrej will discuss her forthcoming book, Freedom Inside?: Yoga and Meditation in the Carceral State (Oxford University Press, 2021). The book offers a combination of personal narrative and scholarly research in order to examine the role of yoga and meditation in U.S. prisons. It offers a glimpse inside the system now known as mass incarceration, which disproportionately punishes, confines, and controls those from black, brown and poor communities at exponentially higher rates, diminishing their life-chances and creating a vast underclass of disempowered, subordinated citizens. How do self-disciplinary practices such as yoga and meditation work when they are taught inside unjust systems? Do they produce political passivity, quietism, and compliance, if offered as palliatives to accept, cope and comply with unjust power structures? Or, might they prove disruptive to mass incarceration, if offered as tools to develop awareness and attunement toward injustice, to engage in non-conformist responses that include critique and challenge? The book explores both the promises and pitfalls of yoga and meditation when taught in prisons in different ways. It is is based on four years of immersion in prisons and prison volunteer communities, along with ethnographic work inside a jail, and over sixty in-depth interviews with those who teach and practice inside prisons. It interweaves academic narratives with personal experiences of collaboration with volunteers and incarcerated practitioners.

Farah Godrej is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. Her areas of research and teaching include Indian political thought, Gandhi’s political thought, cosmopolitanism, globalization and comparative political theory. She also studies contemporary issues such as environmental justice, food politics and mass incarceration. Her research appears in journals such as Political Theory, Political Research Quarterly, Theory & Event, The Review of Politics, and Polity, and she is the author of Cosmopolitan Political Thought: Method, Practice, Discipline (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). Her forthcoming book Freedom Inside? Yoga and Meditation in the Carceral State (Oxford University Press, 2022) examines the role of yogic and meditative practices in U.S. prisons.

This event can be booked via our Eventbrite page.