Join Dr. Adrián Muñoz and a global cohort of students for this unique opportunity to explore the past and present of yoga in Latin America.
The field of Modern Yoga studies has inaugurated a vast amount of different possible research areas that transcend the regional and the disciplinary. Yet, regional developments outside of India and Anglophone environments are still often neglected. This course seeks to make incursion into the fascinating history of how yoga entered different parts of Latin America, whose yogic community is unquestionably large and fast-growing. While some cases simply continued other yogic trends in North America and Europe, there has also been fascinating episodes not found elsewhere.
This course will address in particular those cases in which yoga played important roles in various historical and political key events, and will also account for possible regional innovations worthy of attention. Students will critically consider some significant figures whose active participation in disseminating yoga was crucial for the consolidation of yoga from Mexico to Argentina.
Each Module also includes: recommended weekly readings, a PDF handout, and optional quiz.
The end of each live Zoom session will include a BONUS 15 min of Spanish Q&A for Spanish-speakers in the course.
The opening module will offer an overview of the field of Modern Yoga studies while simultaneously assessing the presence of Latin American intellectuals in the international academic circles of Indology. Students will briefly revisit the geography, history, and typologies pertaining to this vast region. Then, they will consider issues of colonialism, orientalism, spirituality, and esotericism, as these have been uniquely yet compellingly intertwined, especially during the nineteenth century. This will help understand how different actors and complex contexts prepared the terrain for the reception of yoga in Latin America.
The second module will expand on occultism and esoteric trends that became popular by the turn-of-the century in the Americas. Thus, it will explore specific case studies so as to engage in fascinating stories of how yoga became a useful tool in the restructuring of Latin American countries as modern nations in the first decades of the twentieth century. Early episodes merge with revolutionary figures and understandings of yoga as ethics and political action. Yoga also entailed a combination of socio-political discourses worldwide and nationalist enterprises of building a modern nation, where notions of race, identity, and cleanliness were paramount.
In this module, we will explore the intricacies of trans-regional negotiations of cultural items by focusing on how the impact of the Beatnik Culture and the Hippie Counterculture boosted the yoga and meditation craze all across the West. We will carefully heed the ways in which New Age sensibilities attracted people in Latin America, roughly between the 1940s and the 1970’s, looking for non-traditional ways of expanding the consciousness and forwarding spiritual quests. Thus, we will overview the establishment of the main, influential religio-philosophical groups and schools linked to yoga that took root in different parts of the region.
By the 1980s, the fitness culture bloomed around the globe. The last module will examine the ways in which this physical culture merged with yogic trends and appealed to a vast audience throughout Latin America. It will also look at ingenious methods of adapting and accommodating yoga to new surroundings, often reinterpreting notions of tradition through the lenses of (post) modernity. At some point, various yogic circles became independent of European and Anglophone models and molded interesting innovations, frequently exploring the unlimited possibilities of the beautiful landscapes, both at the coast or in the woods. As a result, a very attractive yogic tourism has been growing and competing with standard destinations in Asia. A quick account of associations, groups, and general publications will close the course.
Adrián Muñoz is an Associate Professor at the Center for Asian and African Studies, El Colegio de México, where he earned his PhD in South Asian Studies in 2007. He has specialized in South Asian religious traditions, with an emphasis in early modern expressions, but is also interested in the intricate relationships between religion, mythography, and literature across time and languages. Adrián’s research has usually focused on the history and literature of yoga, often dealing with issues of hagiography, variability, and identity. In recent years, he has been developing a research project on the reception and practice of yoga in Mexico, and coordinates a wider research group devoted to tracing the history of yoga in Latin America. He has authored various articles and book chapters these issues. His books include Historia minima del yoga (2019, co-authored with Gabriel Martino), Radiografía del hathayoga (2016), and Yogi Heroes and Poets: Histories and Legends of the Naths (2011, coedited with David N. Lorenzen). He also writes poetry.
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