The basic argument of this contribution to the Common Knowledge symposium on xenophilia is that colonial attitudes toward South Asian religion and Hindus' attitudes toward Western intellectual discourse reveal an ambiguous mix of xenophilia and xenophobia. This articles focuses on yoga, whose macrohistory comprises a global case of xenophilia, beginning with Vivekananda's address at the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago and still ongoing today. Before that watershed speech in 1893, however, indigenous scholars were translating Sanskrit texts into Bengali as part of an effort to articulate a unified vision of Hindu traditions that could be used to engage with the science, medicine, and other attractive aspects of British and Western culture. Comparing Bengali renderings of Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra, this essay concludes that one of them, the translation of paṇḍit Kālīvar Vedāntavāglīś, exposed elements of ambiguity in the original work that expanded the possibilities for the engagement of yoga with Western discourses, while at the same time legitimating the Sanskritic past as a resource for addressing new realities. In the process, Kālīvar's translation helped enable the globalization of yoga as we know it today. This article concludes by suggesting that microhistorical work on the activities of translators may aid in understanding the part that local knowledge can play in our global future.
Peter Valdina; YOGA AND XENOPHILIA: Ambiguity Now and Then. Common Knowledge 1 April 2017; 23 (2): 303–324. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-3815832
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