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East is east, except when it's west: the Easternisation thesis and the Western habitus.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2006
JournalJournal of Religion and Society
Journal number1
Volume8
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

An exercise in hermeneutical suspicion, this article engages the extent to which the burgeoning appearance of ostensibly Eastern concepts and practices within everyday late-modern discourse and practice can actually be said to represent a thoroughgoing “Easternization” of Western culture. Using insights from Pierre Bourdieu, this article argues that Eastern themes have been appropriated by successive generations in the West relative to a range of hermeneutical dynamics, most relevant of which are technologized conceptualizations of the self, a depersonalized view of the cosmos, and the metaphorization of the modern cultural field. Holding that appropriated Eastern concepts and practices have been tailored to the contours of the Western habitus, the article concludes that what we have is more of a westernization of eastern themes than an Easternization of the western paradigm. The hermeneutics of suspicion detailed in the article thereby raises doubts concerning the extent to which purportedly eastern-looking “counter cultural” movements such as theosophy, the new age, and contemporary mysticisms/spiritualities actually run “counter” to the Western culture they purport to reject.