Scholar to speak on blending religions

MIDDLEBURY — Why do American yogis blend Hinduism, Buddhism and Native American religions in their homilies and practice? More generally, why does American spirituality routinely blend indigenous and Asian traditions as evidenced by the “New Age” section of the average American bookstore?
Middlebury College visiting lecturer Amanda Lucia will address these questions in an April 6 lecture titled, “Romanticizing the Premodern: Charting Indices of Indigenous and Asian Religions in Contemporary American Spirituality.”
The lecture, beginning at 4:30 p.m., will take place on the Middlebury College campus in the Hillcrest Orchard Room 103; it is sponsored by the Religion Department and the South Asian Studies Program.
In this talk, Lucia will analyze the intersections between indigenous and Asian religions in contemporary American yoga practices. Casting metaphysical spirituality as the romantic orientalist turn toward the premodern, she will reveal the continued influence of the Christian category of the “heathen” and the continued American preoccupation with the “exotic.”  
Lucia’s thinking is based on six years of ethnographic research in the yogic explorations within transformational festivals (“Lightning in a Bottle,” “Burning Man,” “Shakti Fest,” “Bhakti Fest,” “Wanderlust”), wherein spirituality is made more real in classes and workshops and constructed in altars and temples.
Lucia is associate professor of Religious Studies at University of California, Riverside, where she is a co-director of the Institute for the Study of Immigration and Religion. Her current book project is an ethnographic study of the practices of spirituality as they are constructed in festival environments in the United States. Her 2014 book, “Reflections of Amma: Devotees in a Global Embrace,” investigated transnationalism and gender in a global guru movement. More broadly, her research engages American religions and Hinduism by focusing on religious encounters between North Americans and South Asians since the early 19th century.
After earning a BA in Religion and India Studies at Indiana University, she completed her MA and PhD in the History of Religions at the University of Chicago. Her current interests include guru authority and sexuality, the logics of bricolage spirituality, and the politics of cultural representation.

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