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Project Description

Project description

The Eastern impact on the West has a long history, and describing the 21st century as “the Asian Century” signals a political and economic power shift with consequences for both cultural spheres. As an alternative model to “Westernization”, “Easternization” as a cultural process has contributed to and shaped both material and immaterial culture worldwide, not least in the fields of religion and spirituality. Eastern ideas and practices have been democratized, coming within reach of the organized convert (Buddhist and Hindu inspired) religions, the spiritual new age market and the broader mainstream culture. Ideas and concepts such as reincarnation, karma, zen, tantra, dharma, mandala, nirvana, yoga and mindfulness are no longer exotic, but have become part of the vocabulary and culture of most Western countries, not least because of mediatization through television and the internet and commercialization through advertisements. Transculturally transformed ideas and practices associated with Asian religions and spirituality, such as yoga, meditation, ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts, enjoy wide appeal in popular culture, arts, literature, and even in schools, prisons and other public institutions. Especially in the context of health and health care and in the formations of “therapeutic culture”, these have reshaped public identity in terms of a discourse about “mental health” and “well-being”.

How, where, why and the extent to which such ideas and practices have been accommodated and transformed in a western setting is still a field to be thoroughly investigated, both as a spiritual/religious and a broader cultural phenomenon. One particular focus of analysis is to investigate how, where, why and to what extent such transformations have had repercussions on the Asian countries of origin as a kind of “return globalization”, where “westernized” versions of Asian religious traditions also seem to have been reappropriated in religious traditions and/or individualized spiritualities back in the East. Yoga, meditation, feng shui, reiki and alternative medicine thus are on the market also in Asia in their “Western” forms.

To what extent this could be seen as an inverted process of Easternization or as part of a general “subjective turn” and a “spiritual revolution” is an important issue to investigate. A subtheme of this is the question how and to what extent migrant groups of Eastern origin have been affected by such reconfigurations of tradition. Answering such questions will contribute with new insights into the topic of transnational religion and diaspora religiosity, highlighting the relevance of viewing cultural identity and religious traditions as hybrid results of cultural encounters.

The above-mentioned fields are, however, to be seen also as broader areas that need to be explored in depth. The secondary aim is thus to reflect on and produce specific methodological and theoretical tools with which to generate further knowledge and understanding of a global and interdisciplinary field. It is our ambition to create a long-lasting international network within this field with a transnational research platform, which can be utilized in the future.


Research questions

How have transnational transformations of Eastern religious traditions had an impact in East and West, and which theories and methods can such global flows generate in the study of religion and transnational culture?



1)      Eastern impacts on the West:

  • How have Eastern religious and cultural traditions, ideas and practices had an impact on religion, spirituality and culture in the West?
  • How have Eastern religious traditions, ideas and practices changed and been transformed through their reception and adaptation in the West?


2)      Transnational routes and impacts:

  • How and to which extent has such “westernized” transformations of “Eastern” ideas and practices had an impact on spiritual/religious traditions in the East?
  • How and to which extent has such “westernized” transformations of “Eastern” ideas and practices had an impact on spiritual/religious traditions in diaspora communities?


3)      Theory & methods

  • What theories are relevant in addressing and framing such questions?
  • How can such theories be operationalized in an interdisciplinary analysis of relevant fields?