American University’s Yoga Group Disbanded After Cultural Appropriation Charge

I have been critical of the widening charges of cultural appropriation and microaggressions on our campuses as statements and even programs are targeted with little resistance from faculty or administrators.  We previously discussed how yoga classes were denounced in Ottawa as cultural appropriation. Now American University in Washington has become embroiled in the same charge after a single student objected to white individuals performing an Indian epic as part of university’s Bhakti yoga group. American University student Maya Krishnan seems to believe that the school should limit performances on the basis of race and national origin — and that objection appears to have succeeded with the dissolution of the group as well as the resignation of the group’s faculty adviser, student president and vice president.

Krishnan filed a complaint with the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion on white people daring to perform an Indian epic. She then wrote an op-ed in the student paper, The Eagle on the performance of “The Ramayana,” by American University’s Bhakti Yoga Club.  She complained that “Having my culture represented by an almost entirely white troupe of dancers is incredibly frustrating.”    While that frustration would seem discriminatory on the basis of race and national origin, Krishnan was somehow excused by declaring it’s all cultural appropriation.  Indeed, Krishnan simply rejects the notion that such groups are celebrating her cultural: “Additionally, the director and other representatives of the theater company absolve themselves of cultural responsibility by saying that the point of the show is to increase exposure of Hinduism and its traditions.” 

The Bhakti Yoga Club had invited Viva Kultura, a multinational performing arts group, to perform”The Ramayana.”  However, Krishnan could not see beyond the race and national origin of the performers. Indeed, it did not matter to her if the epic was performed perfectly because the performers were the wrong race. Indeed even converting to the religion seemed to be an effort to rob Krishnan of her “intersectional experience’:

The sponsors of this show and the artists acted as if their actions were acceptable because they have converted to the Hare Krishna sect of Hinduism. The reality of this is that white European dancers will never know my intersectional experience as a Hindu woman, being a brown bodied person and the other aspects of systematic racism that I, as well as other South Asian people, have experienced. These people will never know my experience and will never have to think about knowing it. To place their narrative over mine and other people who practice Hinduism is a disservice.

Instead of defending (and encouraging) the right of all students and faculty to immerse and participate in such performances, American University was largely silent as the race of its students and faculty was used in this fashion.  

Ironically, we discussed not long ago how the show “Hamilton” has refused to audition white performers despite anti-discrimination laws.  Of course the original figures were white but the performance has been confined to minority performers.  That was generally accepted as artistic license.  Moreover, there is a common practice now in rejecting race as limiting actors like confining Shakespeare plays to white performers.  

This brings us back to American and the perception that students are limited by race or national origin by what they can experience and perform.  The school should expressly support students and clubs that reject limitation based on such criteria.

50 thoughts on “American University’s Yoga Group Disbanded After Cultural Appropriation Charge”

  1. Many years ago I lived for a time in the village of Hatfield, a small farming community lying along the banks of the Connecticut River in western Massachusetts. It was a place where Sunday Mass was celebrated in Polish, cucumbers grown in the rich bottom land produced wonderful dill pickles and families built homes as gifts for their newly wed offspring to keep them close. While living there I confess to having spent several memorable evenings at the Hatfield Barn with a Polish girl I was dating, learning the Polka, stuffing myself on kielbasa and pierogies and consuming more than sufficient amounts of Polish beer. Cultural appropriation can be fun.

    I have resisted commenting on the many stories of “cultural appropriation” on these pages because I believed it to be another cause du jour which would quickly drown in its own silliness. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. Cultures are living, breathing organisms, constantly changing and evolving through the shared experience of the peoples with whom they are identified. They are not created out of whole cloth, but rest upon a foundation of collective memory whose roots are traceable to other cultures and languages long forgotten. As dynamic entities they are meant to be appropriated, if you will, as they are exposed to new peoples and new experiences. The resulting interbreeding is as inevitable as biological evolution.

    In sum, the fear of cultural appropriation is merely another species of ignorant unreason. It belongs to the same family of paranoid delusions that produced and continue to preach the myths of cultural, racial, ethnic and religious purity. The family of man needs to grow up.

    1. I might add that most of those who further this cause are merely sheep that subscribe to a movement. They perpetuate their outrage and accusations of cultural appropriation just for the sake of belonging to that movement. Little thought is involved, they are merely followers.

      1. Their danger is with their massive youthful numbers since they are not thinking and instead picking and choosing those things that offend themselves. They are becoming like French Revolutionaries where eventually their turn to be turned upon comes.

        1. Ḯ ƨϵϵ ƴѳǔᴦ ᴘѳḯﬡţ äﬡđ ḯţ ḯƨ ѳƒ ƨѳӎϵ ḉѳﬡḉϵᴦﬡ. ₮ḯӎϵ ѡḯłł ǔłţḯӎäţϵłƴ ţϵłł äƨ ţѳ ħѳѡ ӎǔḉħ đäӎäǥϵ ţħϵƴ äḉţǔäłłƴ ḉäǔƨϵ.

          ₮ħḯƨ ţϵﬡđƨ ţѳ ƨǔᴘᴘѳᴦţ ƴѳǔᴦ ᴘѳƨḯţḯѳﬡ.

          ₵ḯᴘѳłłä’ƨ Ƒḯⱴϵ Ƒǔﬡđäӎϵﬡţäł Łäѡƨ ѳƒ Ƨţǔᴘḯđḯţƴ:

          1) Äłѡäƴƨ äﬡđ ḯﬡϵⱴḯţäɃłƴ ϵⱴϵᴦƴѳﬡϵ ǔﬡđϵᴦϵƨţḯӎäţϵƨ ţħϵ ﬡǔӎɃϵᴦ ѳƒ ƨţǔᴘḯđ ḯﬡđḯⱴḯđǔäłƨ ḯﬡ ḉḯᴦḉǔłäţḯѳﬡ.
          2) ₮ħϵ ᴘᴦѳɃäɃḯłḯţƴ ţħäţ ä ḉϵᴦţäḯﬡ ᴘϵᴦƨѳﬡ (ѡḯłł) Ƀϵ ƨţǔᴘḯđ ḯƨ ḯﬡđϵᴘϵﬡđϵﬡţ ѳƒ äﬡƴ ѳţħϵᴦ ḉħäᴦäḉţϵᴦḯƨţḯḉ ѳƒ ţħäţ ᴘϵᴦƨѳﬡ.
          3) Ä ƨţǔᴘḯđ ᴘϵᴦƨѳﬡ ḯƨ ä ᴘϵᴦƨѳﬡ ѡħѳ ḉäǔƨϵƨ łѳƨƨϵƨ ţѳ äﬡѳţħϵᴦ ᴘϵᴦƨѳﬡ ѳᴦ ţѳ ä ǥᴦѳǔᴘ ѳƒ ᴘϵᴦƨѳﬡƨ ѡħḯłϵ ħḯӎƨϵłƒ đϵᴦḯⱴḯﬡǥ ﬡѳ ǥäḯﬡ äﬡđ ϵⱴϵﬡ ᴘѳƨƨḯɃłƴ ḯﬡḉǔᴦᴦḯﬡǥ łѳƨƨϵƨ.
          4) Ӥѳﬡ-ƨţǔᴘḯđ ᴘϵѳᴘłϵ äłѡäƴƨ ǔﬡđϵᴦϵƨţḯӎäţϵ ţħϵ đäӎäǥḯﬡǥ ᴘѳѡϵᴦ ѳƒ ƨţǔᴘḯđ ḯﬡđḯⱴḯđǔäłƨ. Ḯﬡ ᴘäᴦţḯḉǔłäᴦ ﬡѳﬡ-ƨţǔᴘḯđ ᴘϵѳᴘłϵ ḉѳﬡƨţäﬡţłƴ ƒѳᴦǥϵţ ţħäţ äţ äłł ţḯӎϵƨ äﬡđ ᴘłäḉϵƨ äﬡđ ǔﬡđϵᴦ äﬡƴ ḉḯᴦḉǔӎƨţäﬡḉϵƨ ţѳ đϵäł äﬡđ/ѳᴦ äƨƨѳḉḯäţϵ ѡḯţħ ƨţǔᴘḯđ ᴘϵѳᴘłϵ äłѡäƴƨ ţǔᴦﬡƨ ѳǔţ ţѳ Ƀϵ ä ḉѳƨţłƴ ӎḯƨţäҟϵ.
          5) Ä ƨţǔᴘḯđ ᴘϵᴦƨѳﬡ ḯƨ ţħϵ ӎѳƨţ đäﬡǥϵᴦѳǔƨ ţƴᴘϵ ѳƒ ᴘϵᴦƨѳﬡ.

          Ƶϵäłѳţƨ ţϵﬡđ ţѳ Ƀϵ ţħϵ ƒḯᴦƨţ ţѳ ǥѳ ѡħϵﬡ ţħϵƴ äḉħḯϵⱴϵ ţħϵḯᴦ äḯӎ, ƒѳᴦ ţħϵƴ äᴦϵ ѳƒţϵﬡ ţħϵ ӎѳƨţ đḯƨḯłłǔƨḯѳﬡϵđ äﬡđ äḉţ ѳǔţ äǥäḯﬡƨţ ţħϵ ﬡϵѡ ϵƨţäɃłḯƨħӎϵﬡţ ţħϵ ϙǔḯḉҟϵƨţ. Ṓƒţϵﬡ ţħϵƴ Ƀϵḉѳӎϵ ţħϵ ⱴḯḉţḯӎƨ ѳƒ ţħϵḯᴦ ѳѡﬡ ḉᴦϵäţḯѳﬡ.

          1. “Ṓƒţϵﬡ ţħϵƴ Ƀϵḉѳӎϵ ţħϵ ⱴḯḉţḯӎƨ ѳƒ ţħϵḯᴦ ѳѡﬡ ḉᴦϵäţḯѳﬡ.”

            No doubt the truth. The guillotines fall no matter whose head is below.

            How did you get to print such an interesting font?

            1. Ḯ ᴦϵӎäᴘᴘϵđ ä ҟϵƴɃѳäᴦđ łḯɃᴦäᴦƴ ḯﬡ ₩ḯﬡđѳѡƨ, ḉᴦϵäţḯﬡǥ ӎƴ ѳѡﬡ ḉǔƨţѳӎ ҟϵƴɃѳäᴦđ łäƴѳǔţ ǔƨḯﬡǥ äﬡ ϵđḯţѳᴦ. Ḯţ äᴘᴘϵäᴦƨ ḯﬡ ţħϵ ƨƴƨţϵӎ ţᴦäƴ (ѡħϵᴦϵ ƴѳǔᴦ ƨӎäłł ḯḉѳﬡƨ äᴦϵ äţ ţħϵ Ƀѳţţѳӎ ѳƒ ţħϵ ₩ḯﬡđѳѡƨ ƨḉᴦϵϵﬡ) äƨ äﬡ Ḯﬡţϵᴦﬡäţḯѳﬡäł ҞϵƴɃѳäᴦđ łäƴѳǔţ, ƨϵłϵḉţäɃłϵ Ƀϵţѡϵϵﬡ ţħϵ ƨţäﬡđäᴦđ ǓƧ Σﬡǥłḯƨħ ҞϵƴɃѳäᴦđ äﬡđ ţħḯƨ ѳﬡϵ.

              Ḯﬡƨţϵäđ ѳƒ ţħϵ ǔƨǔäł Łäţḯﬡ Σﬡǥłḯƨħ ḉħäᴦäḉţϵᴦƨ, Ḯ ӎäᴘᴘϵđ ţħϵӎ ţѳ ⱴäᴦḯѳǔƨ ḉħäᴦäḉţϵᴦƨ ḯﬡ ţħϵ Ǔﬡḯḉѳđϵ ḉħäᴦäḉţϵᴦ ƨϵţ.

              Ƒѳᴦ Σжäӎᴘłϵ ţħϵ [K Key] ḯƨ ӎäᴘᴘϵđ ţѳ ţħϵ “₵ƴᴦḯłłḯḉ ₵äᴘḯţäł Łϵţţϵᴦ ҞÄ ѡḯţħ Ƨţᴦѳҟϵ”.

              Ḯ ħäⱴϵﬡ’ţ ƒḯﬡḯƨħϵđ ḯţ ƴϵţ äƨ Ḯ ĵǔƨţ đḯƨḉѳⱴϵᴦϵđ ä Ƀǔǥ ѡħϵᴦϵ ţħϵ ﬡ (ĦϵɃᴦϵѡ ₩ḯđϵ Łϵţţϵᴦ Äłϵƒ) ḯƨ ä ᴦḯǥħţ ţѳ łϵƒţłäﬡǥǔäǥϵ ḉħäᴦäḉţϵᴦ äﬡđ ₩ḯﬡđѳѡƨ ţϵﬡđƨ ţѳ äḉţ Ƀƴ ᴘłäḉḯﬡǥ ḯţƨ ḉǔᴦƨѳᴦ ѳﬡ ţħϵ łϵƒţ ƨḯđϵ ѳƒ ţħϵ ḉħäᴦäḉţϵᴦ äﬡđ ƨѳӎϵţḯӎϵƨ ţħḯƨ ḉäǔƨϵƨ ä ᴘϵᴦḯѳđ ƒѳᴦ ϵжäӎᴘłϵ ţѳ Ƀϵ ᴘǔţ ѳﬡ ţħϵ łϵƒţ ѳƒ ţħϵ ḉħäᴦäḉţϵᴦ ѡħϵﬡ ḯţ ḯƨ äţ ţħϵ ϵﬡđ ѳƒ ä ƨϵﬡţϵﬡḉϵ. Ḯ ӎḯǥħţ ѡѳᴦҟ ѳﬡ ḯţ ä Ƀḯţ łäţϵᴦ ѡħϵﬡ Ḯ ħäⱴϵ ţḯӎϵ ţѳ ѡѳᴦҟ ѳﬡ ţħḯƨ äﬡđ ѳţħϵᴦ äƨţħϵţḯḉ ḉħѳḯḉϵƨ ѡḯţħ ţħϵ ḉħäᴦƨ.

      1. the darned brazilians took jiu jitsu to a new level and now MMA is a billion dollar business and nobody thought to stop because it was all cultural appropriation all over the place. imagine the gall of those fighters!

        i hear MMA is the rage in china now too as kung fu is hardly practiced by anyone but foreigners much anymore. so much for diversity!

  2. Why is it women who seem to be driving this insanity? They make some of us ashamed to be aggregated with humans who think like this just because we’re the same sex.They seem intent on destroying the very cultural cross-fertilization that has made societies around the world profit from outside influences. Next thing you know, some post-grad English major twit will demand an English language police to purge foreign words and phrases from the language, just like the moribund French have.

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