Are contemporary Americans who profit from the business of yoga appropriating Indian culture? Are they stealing its intellectual property or misrepresenting its religious traditions? We can’t answer these questions without understanding the origins of modern yoga. In this episode Peter Valdina argues that nineteenth-century Indian translations of the Yoga Sutra resulted from complex intercultural encounters that can’t be easily dismissed as mere cultural appropriation.
We start with the history of religion scholarship, print publication, and yoga in colonial India. Then we discuss the difference between xenophilia and cultural appropriation. We consider the case of Kalivar Vedantavagis, a little-known nineteenth-century translator of the Yoga Sutra. We conclude with a discussion about contemporary yoga informed by the analysis of Kalivar’s translation.