SOAS University of London

Centre of Yoga Studies

Pahalwan Baba Ramdev: Wrestling with Yoga and Masculinity in India

Joseph Alter

Date: 7 November 2019Time: 6:00 PM

Finishes: 7 November 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Talk

In the view of many people, Baba Ramdev embodies the practice of modern yoga in 21st century India. A tremendously successful entrepreneur, infamous “godman” with political ties, and a highly visible TV personality, he is also a vocal supporter of pahalwani as a way of life and of wrestling in India as a national sport. Beyond sponsorship of tournaments and support for a new professional wrestling league, he promotes a form of modern, nationalistic masculinity that draws on the “ideals” of yoga, competitive athleticism, “Hindu” conceptions of embodied power, and fetishized Vedic asceticism.

In complex and often contradictory ways, Baba Ramdev’s embodiment of these ideals shapes the bio-morality of wrestlers as they train, compete and endorse his products. Critically analyzed in terms of gender theory, his sponsorship of wrestling belies deep contradictions in religious nationalism, middle-class modernity, and in the gendered morality of both wrestling as a sport and yoga as a form of practice.

This event is free but booking is required. Book via Eventbrite.

Speaker Biography

Joseph S. Alter teaches anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh and has published a number of books, including The Wrestler’s Body, Knowing Dil Das, Gandhi’s Body, Asian Medicine and Globalization, Yoga in Modern India and Moral Materialism. His research is based in South Asia and is currently focused on the cultural history of nature cure as a globalized system of medicine, biosemiotics and social theory, and the history of animals in the human imagination.