The Intersection of Hinduism and Contemporary Society

Invited Speaker Series

Hindus, their communities, and their traditions face a wide range of issues in navigating contemporary society. An underpinning of these tensions is that contemporary Hindus live and work in societies with values that may be at variance with those of their religious and cultural traditions. Issues they encounter may include those of identity, values, affiliation, and ethnicity. This series of talks aims to provide an opportunity for scholars to dialogue and share research related to the experiences of contemporary Hindu communities and adherents in their intersections with their host communities. All are welcome to participate.

Next Event

Approaching the Body in Yoga Studies: Ethnographic Yoga Research Between Embodied Practice and Embodiment Theory

Laura von Ostrowski and Lina Aschenbrenner
Thu 29th Feb 2024,  10am UTC

Register from here. After you have registered, a zoom link will be sent to you two days before the event. 

Much of recent yoga studies research centers around the body as crucial element to differing yoga practices and therefore crucial element to yoga research. In this context, one question has become increasingly relevant: How to do body-focused and embodied research in the different fields of yoga? To address this question, in our presentation, we first point to the difficulty of focusing on the body as important research entity, yet circumventing a bodily and performative level. We then suggest that the social and cultural relevance of yoga practices manifests in and via the body as a crucial part of the practice, and therefore a sole focus on discourses about and verbalizable knowledge of the body in the ethnographic fields cannot be enough. Embodied processes are themselves a substantial part of the ethnographic research field and need to be taken into account. To underline and exemplify our claim, we refer to Laura von Ostrowski’s yoga ethnographies. Based on our own experiences with body-focused research, we then propose and discuss a solid, academic framework of embodiment as one way to do body-focused and embodied ethnographies.

Our Guest:
Laura von Ostrowski

Laura von Ostrowski‘s book to her PhD-thesis was published Open Access under the title A Text in Motion in 2022. As a religious scholar, indologist and ethnographer her areas of research include modern and contemporary yoga, the reception history of the Yogasūtra, aesthetics and embodiment. She teaches about the history of modern yoga at the online education portal and is associated with the University of Hamburg, Germany.

Our Guest:
Lina Aschenbrenner

Lina Aschenbrenner is a postdoctoral researcher in the study of religion with a background in cultural studies. She explores material, performative, aesthetic, affective, embodied, and experiential dimensions of contemporary religious and cultural phenomena. Her book Neo-Spiritual Aesthetics (Bloomsbury 2023) is based on and dedicated to body-focused ethnography. She works for the DFG-funded research center Esoteric Practices and Alternative Rationalities from a Global Perspective (CAS-E).Outside of academia, she creates dance with and for all.

Past Events

Hare Krishna in the Twenty-First Century

Dr Angela Burt (Australian Catholic University)
Thursday 7th December, 8pm UTC

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In this seminar presentation, Dr Angela Burt will discuss key themes from her newly published book in the Cambridge University Press Elements in New Religious Movements series entitled, Hare Krishna in the Twenty-First Century. Angela Burt introduces the historical origins of the Hare Krishna movement as a modern manifestation of the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, which has its roots in sixteenth century West Bengal, India. The tradition was institutionalized in a modern form in 1966 when it was registered by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in New York City. Using frame alignment and resource mobilization as theoretical lenses, Angela Burt examines the beliefs and practices of the movement within the context of its institutional and community dynamics. She also considers the Hare Krishna movement’s changing relationship with mainstream society and its shifting demographic makeup, including the Indian-Hindu community’s role in the movement’s efforts to navigate a changing internal and external environment. She discusses the key challenges and controversies that have beset the movement throughout its history and considers how the movement’s responses to a new set of issues and challenges are pivotal for its future direction in the twenty-first century.

Our Guest:
Dr Angela R. Burt

Angela R. Burt is a lecturer at the Australian Catholic University, where she teaches religion and sociology. She is the author Hare Krishna in the Twenty-First Century in the Cambridge University Press Elements in New Religions series, and the forthcoming book, Leading the Hare Krishna Movement: The Crisis of Succession in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness published in the Routledge New Religions series. She has documented the early history of the Hare Krishna movement in her role as project manager and researcher for the ISKCON Oral History Project since its inception in 2003.

Giving Meaning to Humans, Work, Knowledge, Intrinsicality and Mind: Managing by the Bhagavad Gita

A. D. Amar (Seton Hall University, NJ)
Thursday, 12th October 2023, 11am–12pm UTC (12pm-1pm GMT)

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This presentation focuses on how learning from the Bhagavad Gita could be used to manage contemporary organizations. It goes into the depth of the foundational messages about humans, work, behaviour, and principles with which the management can connect for incorporating into practice under the new demands due to the evolving characteristics, content and scope of work, and the newer generations of workers. Every management lesson suggested in this presentation is directly derived and properly connected with the Bhagavad Gita. While most of the messages transmit straight, needing no interpretation; nevertheless, those that do need some expanding are properly interpreted. Surprisingly, as I will show, Gita’s relevance to management is so contemporaneous as if either the human behaviour or work demands of the Gita’s period were more like what is happening in our organizations now. Or the needs of the time have changed so much that organizations cannot go by the management principles or practices that have been handed down to them. I will begin with the doctrine of human treatment grounded in what God tells in the Bhagavad Gita within the bounds of their material nature—struggling with the six senses and the mind. By stating that, God lives as “jiva shakti” in every living entity and states that every living entity lives in Him. The Bhagavad Gita brings all living entities to God’s level and asks everyone to treat them as if they are treating Him because humans are multi-potential spiritual entities that work to seek meaning and a place in the larger plan of existence.

Our Guest:
A. D. Amar

Amar Dev Amar (BS Eng, MS Eng, MBA, M.Phil., Ph.D., Professor of Management, Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, New Jersey) is a specialist in knowledge organizations, technology, and innovation management theory. Prof. Amar received 2013 Carolyn Dexter Finalist Award of the Academy of Management (AOM) and 2010 NJBIA Bright Idea Award in Management of the NJPRO Foundation of New Jersey Business and Industry Association (NJBIA). He has 145 works in publications such as the IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Harvard Business Review, Organizational Dynamics, IIE Transactions, European Journal of Innovation Management, and the Mid-Atlantic Journal of Business. Dr. Amar has been department chairperson, Director of the Management Development Center (MSU), Director of MBA Assessment, Director of Seton Hall University Comprehensive Achievement Program (SHUCAP) and Director and Editor of the Mid-Atlantic Journal of Business for 12 years. He has served on many Ph.D. committees. Among his published books is Managing Knowledge Workers. Two of his papers were selected Best Paper of the Academy of Management for its 2013 and 2014 annual conferences. In 2019, he won the AOM Best Symposium Proposal Award. He has served on the faculties in the USA, India, United Kingdom, Russia, Poland, and China. He serves on the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. 

“In Yoga, we are connected!” Examining the Fabric that makes Belonging

Jens Augspurger
Thursday, 6th July, 10:30–11:30am UTC

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Spiritual tourism is, unlike other religiously motivated forms of travel, characterised by the specific attention that is placed on the personal growth of the tourist, i.e., their ‘inner journey’. The phenomenon aligns with the broader trend towards self-improvement, self-reference, and self-realisation that is occurring at the (now again) globalised intersection of religion, health, and wellness.

My research seeks to understand spiritual tourism by examining the interplay between the journey (act of travel), the journeyed (destination), and the journeyer (tourist). Using biographical approaches, I conducted research interviews with spiritual tourists who had returned from travel to India either before or at the start of the pandemic. The data suggests that my interlocutors maintained complex correspondences with the places they had journeyed to. Many of these destinations seemed unattainable at the time of the interview during the height of several lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

In this talk, I will explore how the spiritual tourists often grappled with reflecting on their own impact and identity during their travels. I will then discuss the diverse ways in which my interlocutors have sought to maintain their connections to India, or Yogaland, whether through the computer camera-lens, their personal yoga practice, or imaginative acts of connection.

Our Guest:
Jens Augspurger

Jens Augspurger is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Religions and Philosophies at SOAS University of London and a member of the school’s Centre for Yoga Studies. His research is located at the various intersections of religion, power, and politics, with a specific focus on spiritual and yoga communities. Jens is also a survivor activist and co-founder of Project SATYA, an initiative dedicated to combating spiritual abuse, coercive control, and institutionalised violence within religious groups.

The Shakta Aghoris in Kamakhya: An Interview with Prema Goet

Thursday, 2nd March 2023, 10:30–11:30am UTC
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Prema Goet will be speaking about his experiences and ethnographic research with the Shakta Aghoris during the Ambubachi Mela at the Kamakhya Temple in Assam. He has long term friendships with the Aghoris and has first-hand experiences of their mixing extreme antinomian asceticism with priestly services and philanthropy. He will be speaking on the lives of the Aghoris as well as his own role in representing the group through his work. He has published a photo journal entitled Against the Grain, which he will use to illustrate his presentation.

Our Guest:
Prema Goet,
Documentary Researcher

Prema Goet is a multi-disciplinary researcher whose main interest lies in the intellectual history, culture and languages of South Asia. He received his BA in Sanskrit and MA in Philosophy and Religion from The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) – University of London. He is currently a visual-anthropologist researcher for The Śākta Traditions Research Project at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. His interest focuses mainly on the performative ritual practices of various ascetic groups of South Asia. He has extensively worked with various practitioners from the region (India, Nepal and Bangladesh), documenting and producing a vast array of ethnographic works on tantric rituals, worship of the Goddess(es), aghora and yogic practices, etc. Amongst other things, Prema has also produced and recorded various audio-recordings of traditional chantings and music performed by the various groups he has worked with. His 2019 exhibition at the OCHS, The Path of Śakti, was curated and introduced by Prof. Chris Dorsett from The Pitt Rivers Museum – University of Oxford.

Virtual Conference

June 2-3 2022

Hindus, their communities, and their traditions face a wide variety of sociological challenges in assimilating into or avoiding modern secular societies. An underpinning of these tensions is that Hindus live and work in the world while simultaneously maintaining a separation from it. Sociological issues that they may encounter include those of identity, value, affiliation, and ethnicity. This conference aims to provide an opportunity for scholars to dialogue and share research related to the experiences of contemporary Hindu communities and adherents as they navigate life within, without, and on the fringes of their religious institutions and host communities. All are welcome to participate.

Download programme for abstracts.

Watch recodings here.


(All times in UTC)


12:10pm – 1:30pm     

Angela Burt
The Changing Relationship of the Hare Krishna Movement with Mainstream Society: An Alignment Perspective

Gustavo H. P. Moura
World Kirtan: Music and Spirituality in a Transcultural Whirlpool

Ace Simpson and Alan Herbert
Rapture and Rupture: Experiences of Former Ashram Residents

1:30pm – 2:50pm

Tuhina Ganguly
The Wonder of Darshan: Going Beyond the Local and the Visual

Hrvoje Čargonja
Dialectics of Narrative Identity in the Hare Krishna Stories of Religious Experience

Cecilia Bastos
Mind, Body and Subjectivity: The Performance of Yoga and Meditation Practitioners

DAY 2: FRIDAY 3rd JUNE 2022


12:10pm – 1:30pm

Richa Shukla
Contemporary Hindu Woman: Strangled Soul or an Emancipated One?

Sraddha Shivani Rajkomar
Hinduism and Creole Cultural Memory in Present-day Mauritius

Priyesh Patel
Finding the One: Marriage and Love among Hindus in the UK

1:30pm – 3:10pm

Gowda Gomathi & Babu Lenin G
Memorial Stones as Social Identity in the Past

Paolo E. Rosati
Cultural Identity and Cultural Memory at Kāmākhyā: A Preliminary Study

Michael Sheludko
Russo-Ukrainian War and Problems of Violence Justification Among Russian and Ukrainian Vaishnavas

Rasa Pranskevičiūtė-Amoson
Acting in the Underground: Life as a Hare Krishna Devotee in the Republic of Lithuania (1979–1989)

Organizing Committee

Cecilia G. Bastos
T +55 71993661399
National Museum / Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Angela R. Burt       
T +61 412 439 734
Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies

Alan C. Herbert
T +44 7463 138252
Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies 

Ace V. Simpson
T +44 1895 265899
Brunel University London