From Yoga to Kabbalah: Religious Exoticism and the Logics of Bricolage

Véronique Altglas, Oxford University Press, 2014 The popularization of yoga and meditation, public curiosity about shamanism, and the recent craze for kabbalah all demonstrate the rising appeal of these religious resources in western contemporary societies. What is it about them that fascinates the Westerns who take the classes and join the centers? Religious exoticism implies a deeply ambivalent relationship to otherness and to religion itself: traditional religious teachings are uprooted and fragmented in order to be appropriated as practical methods for personal growth. As a consequence, religious exoticism tells us as much about the ways in which religious resources are disseminated globally as it does about the construction of the self in contemporary societies. From Yoga to Kabbalah explores how these “exotic” religious resources cross cultural boundaries and become global, what makes them appealing in western societies, and how they are instrumentalized and for what purposes. Véronique Altglas uses the two case studies of the Hindu-based movements in France and Britain since the mid-1990s, and the Kabbalah Centre in France, Britain, Brazil and Israel. She draws upon major qualitative and cross-cultural empirical investigations to conceptualize religious exoticism and offer a nuanced and in-depth understanding of its contemporary significance. Ultimately, the book enhances understanding of the globalization of religion (how religions are disseminated transnationally), syncretism and bricolage (how religions are modified through cultural encounters), and of religious life in neoliberal societies (how contemporary forms of religiosity reflects core features of contemporary social life).