21 and #1.




Why Swearing Is Good For You

"Today when we think of U.S. fads and fashions for India, we tend to focus on the recent mass popularity of yoga and Bollywood films or on narratives of self-discovery in the East such as Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling Eat, Pray, Love. The hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, with its obsessions for Indian music,fabrics, and spiritualities, also remains strong in the public memory. It is largely forgotten that at the turn of the twentieth century the United States was in the grips of a craze over India[*] and “the Orient” that was, in some ways, larger and more pervasive than anything that has occurred since. Between the 1880s and 1920s, Americans from all classes and walks of life were drawn to an ‘India’ that was, in essence, a collective fantasy. Elites of cities such as New york, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia explored Vedantist philosophy and attempted the contortions of ‘tantrik’ yoga. A young Isadora Duncan performed her interpretations of Eastern dance, in barefeet and flowing robes, on the lawns of Newport, Rhode Island’s finest mansions, while Ruth St. Denis performed in Indian-style on Broadway, bedecked with jewels and wrapped in a colorful silk sari. The New Thought writer and publisher William Walker Atkinson built a national audience for his mail-order books on clairvoyance, mind control, and the ‘Hindu-yogi science of breath,’ published under pseudonyms such as Swami Panchadasi, Yogi Ramacharaka, and Swami Bhakta Vishita."


Vivek Bald, Bengali Harlem, pp.16-7

He goes on to write about the sexualized image of the Indian “nautch” dancer. He also writes about many other ways that “exotic India” is used to sell things from cigarettes to circus attractions. A historical context to discussions that sometimes take place now. None of it is new, etc. Also a lot of this reminds me of a Politics of Style class I took.

[*Bald uses “India” here to refer to all regions considered India pre-1947]

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