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Volume Editors: and
This volume of the Annual Review for the Sociology of Religion adresses the challenges of the diversity and complexity of sociological approaches to Asian forms and dynamics of Asian or Asian-inpired ascetic ideas and practices. Eleven papers, written by scholars conducting researches in different geographic and cultural contexts, all contribute to enrich discussion on the relevance of sociological studies of Yoga, meditation and other ascetic techniques and traditions.

Contributors are: Zuzana Bártová, Loïc Bawidamann, Jørn Borup, Sally SJ Brown, Ugo Dessì, Marianne Qvortrup Fibiger, Marc Lebranchu, Patrick S.D. McCartney, Lionel Obadia, Matteo Di Placido, Alexandros Sakellariou, João Paulo P. Silveira, and Rafael Walthert.
Free access
In: Journal of Chinese Theology

Abstract

Yoga practices range from religious rituals to secular well-being techniques. However, during the Covid-19-pandemic, the Swiss government restricted recreational group activities, including yoga, while exempting religious practices. Hence, the state classified yoga as a sport, a ruling that a yoga instructor contested, claiming the privileges granted to religious communities by categorising his practices as religious. Based on qualitative interviews and the analysis of official documents, this paper shows how his attempt to enforce state recognition of yoga as religion came at the cost of domestication: Rules issued by the state led to an alignment of yoga practice with traditional forms of religion.

In: Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Volume 14 (2023)

Abstract

Studies of Buddhism in Europe notice the relationship between Buddhist practitioners and their social class, but they neglect to go beyond the assessment of middle-class demographic characteristics. Based on a case study of practitioners in France and the Czech Republic, this chapter contends that practitioners embody Buddhism-related practices in a way that reflects a middle-classed interest in self-development. This self-development is focused on disciplined well-being, self-reflexivity, psychological pragmatism, authenticity and the holistic self. The classed origin of this embodiment is obscured by its consistency with the central values of consumer culture. The chapter thus highlights the importance of class analysis for contemporary Buddhism.

In: Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Volume 14 (2023)
Author:

Abstract

Based on qualitative first-hand material collected during fieldwork in France in the last decade, and correlated to larger sets of second-hand statistical data, this paper aims at examining the impact of a particular digital technology, namely smartphone applications, on yoga practice. Technologies are often cited as a factor of change for ascetic practices and for the relationship social actors to these practices. Such a subject-matter calls for the implementation of a methodology mixing qualitative approach and statistical information which jointly illuminate the modes of appropriation of yoga by technologies, and of adaptation of technologies to a new open economy of practices. The paper also highlights one of the contradictions of the use of smartphone applications for yoga practice: connect (electronically) to disconnect (mentally and socially)

In: Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Volume 14 (2023)
Author:

Abstract

If the Western reception of Hinduism and Buddhism is well known, this is not the case for Taoism, whose interest in the West began in the 1970s in the milieu of Chinese medicine and martial arts before spreading to the general audience. Its teachings and practices have been secularized and hybridized and reduced to a collection of New Age concepts and wellness techniques. This process of westernization and (re)invention of a tradition has led to the creation of a popular western neo-Taoism which evolves between the market of new spiritualities and personal development, new religious movements and more rarely, religious conversion.

In: Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Volume 14 (2023)
Author:

Abstract

This paper aims to redress an imbalance in scholarly research on religious diversity in Italy by focusing on the case of Zen Buddhism. Qualitative research on three meditation groups in Sardinia shows that their activities and practitioners’ narratives are relevant to the dynamics of religious globalization across four complementary dimensions: Zen Buddhism as carrier of global culture; processes of glocalization implying the creative use imported Zen meditation techniques; practitioners’ attempt to reposition themselves within the global map of the sacred; and, finally, practitioners’ attitudes toward the implications of science and the economy understood as domains with a global scope.

In: Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Volume 14 (2023)

Abstract

The objective of this chapter is to analyze the online religious and meditation practices of Seicho-no-ie (House of Growth) in Brazil during the Covid-19 pandemic. Seicho-no-ie is a Japanese New Religion well known in Brazil for its religious magazines, optimistic statements, and Shinsokan meditation. Starting in March 2020, the religious institution canceled in-person services and began offering religious guidance exclusively online. The study focuses on online activities and publications which responded directly and indirectly to anxieties provoked by the pandemic, emphasizing the role of Shinsokan.

In: Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Volume 14 (2023)
In: Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Volume 14 (2023)
Author:

Abstract

Yoga originated in the Indian subcontinent 2.500 to 5,000 years ago (Mallinson & Singleton, 2017; Newcombe, 2009a). Increasingly popular in high-income countries, yoga offers multiple health and wellbeing benefits. However, yoga students and teachers in the United Kingdom (UK) are 91% white, 87% female and 71% university educated (Cartwright et al, 2020). The literature indicates that marginalised groups experience spirituality as a barrier to yoga access. However, a new, qualitative study of northern UK cities – the first to look at a broad, intersectional range of marginalised identities – identifies spirituality as an access enabler for these groups.

In: Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Volume 14 (2023)