Stealing My Religion

Not Just Any Cultural Appropriation

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Pub Date 13 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 13 Sep 2022

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Description

From sneaker ads and the “solidarity hijab” to yoga classes and secular hikes along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, the essential guide to the murky ethics of religious appropriation.

We think we know cultural appropriation when we see it. Blackface or Native American headdresses as Halloween costumes—these clearly give offense. But what about Cardi B posing as the Hindu goddess Durga in a Reebok ad, AA’s twelve-step invocation of God, or the earnest namaste you utter at the end of yoga class?

Liz Bucar unpacks the ethical dilemmas of a messy form of cultural appropriation: the borrowing of religious doctrines, rituals, and dress for political, economic, and therapeutic reasons. Does borrowing from another’s religion harm believers? Who can consent to such borrowings? Bucar sees religion as an especially vexing arena for appropriation debates because faiths overlap and imitate each other and because diversity within religious groups scrambles our sense of who is an insider and who is not. Indeed, if we are to understand why some appropriations are insulting and others benign, we have to ask difficult philosophical questions about what religions really are.

Stealing My Religion guides us through three revealing case studies—the hijab as a feminist signal of Muslim allyship, a study abroad “pilgrimage” on the Camino de Santiago, and the commodification of yoga in the West. We see why the Vatican can’t grant Rihanna permission to dress up as the pope, yet it’s still okay to roll out our yoga mats. Reflecting on her own missteps, Bucar comes to a surprising conclusion: the way to avoid religious appropriation isn’t to borrow less but to borrow more—to become deeply invested in learning the roots and diverse meanings of our enthusiasms.

Liz Bucar is a religious ethicist and author of the prizewinning Pious Fashion. Professor of Religion at Northeastern University, she is a certified Kripalu yoga teacher and leads a popular study abroad program along the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

From sneaker ads and the “solidarity hijab” to yoga classes and secular hikes along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, the essential guide to the murky ethics of religious appropriation.

We...


Advance Praise

“Using hijab to sell soda, the Buddha to market vegan food, or crucifixes to make pop music pop can feel edgy or celebratory for those embracing the visuals without the credos behind them. But, as Liz Bucar reveals in this thoughtful work, the faithful may not appreciate seeing their heart on your sleeve. A welcome and necessary reminder that all of us, ultimately, are unreliable narrators when we weave ourselves into others’ stories.”—Jeff Yang, coauthor of Rise: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now and cohost of They Call Us Bruce

“At a time when discussions about cultural appropriation too often feel overheated and imprecise, Liz Bucar points to a way forward by asking us to consider the stolen stuff of faith—religious ideas, practices, and objects repurposed by those outside the fold. But who owns religion? Who is outside and inside the fold? Bucar’s sharp insights, shot through with humor and self-awareness, are exactly what we need the next time we reach over to borrow from someone else’s religion for our own therapeutic, political, or educational needs.”—Gene Demby, cohost and correspondent for NPR’s Code Switch

“Using hijab to sell soda, the Buddha to market vegan food, or crucifixes to make pop music pop can feel edgy or celebratory for those embracing the visuals without the credos behind them. But, as...


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EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780674987036
PRICE $27.95 (USD)

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