21 Feb The Man With Superpowers: The Yogi in the American Imagination and the Case of Paramahansa Yogananda
Anya Pokazanyeva (Religious Studies, UCSB)
Friday, February 21 / 4:00 PM
It might seem logical to assume that a Yogi, by definition, is one who does yoga. However, as these terms first entered the American imagination they did not always do so in accordance with one another. Even as Orientalist sources and Indian popularizers attempted to define yoga as a transcendent spiritual discipline grounded in highbrow philosophy, the figure of the Yogi continued to occupy a liminal space somewhere between religious asceticism, performance magic, and charlatanry. The archetypal Yogi was and continues to be the man with superpowers. This lecture will explore the figure of the Yogi and the cultural tropes that govern his representation by using Paramahansa Yogananda as a case study for the quintessential Yogi of the early twentieth-century American imagination. The lecture will then trace this paradigm into contemporary popular culture, exploring the curious and occasionally comical instances of cognitive dissonance that arise when the Yogi emerges in the mainstream context of modern postural yoga.
Anya Pokazanyeva is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at UCSB. Her research interests focus on the transmission of yogic traditions and discourses of supranormal powers and embodiment.
Sponsored by the IHC’s South Asian Religions and Cultures RFG.