Stealing My Religion: The Ethics of Religious Appropriation

Presented on: April 13th at 5:00 PM EDT




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We encourage attendance in person (more information here), but the presentation will be streamed if you would like to tune in virtually!
 
We think we know cultural appropriation when we see it. Blackface, swastikas, and Native American headdresses. But consider Cardi B posing as the Hindu Goddess Durga in a Reebok ad, AA’s 12-step invocation of God, or the earnest namaste you utter at the end of yoga class. Why do these forms of appropriation get a pass?
 
Drawing on five years of auto-ethnography, Professor Elizabeth Bucar unpacks the ethical dilemmas of a messy form of cultural appropriation—religious appropriation—asking what the implications are of borrowing for political, economic, and therapeutic reasons. She argues that when we ignore the core religious beliefs of the faithful and commodify their practices, we risk further marginalizing minority groups and reinforcing social inequities. As Bucar continually tests the limits of borrowing dress, doctrines, and rituals from Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, occasionally reflecting on her own missteps, she comes to a surprising conclusion: the way to avoid religious appropriation isn’t to borrow less; it’s to borrow more.
 
Liz Bucar is a religious ethicist and author of the prize-winning Pious Fashion and the forthcoming Stealing My Religion, both for Harvard University Press. She is a professor of religion at Northeastern University. A certified Kripalu yoga teacher who leads a popular study abroad program along the Camino in Spain, she lives with her family in Brookline, MA. 


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