Kamna Muddagouni writes on why white people need to stop saying ‘namaste’. Kamna starts out by explaining that she went to a yoga class in an effort to connect with her identity and then finds that her culture has been appropriated. Kanma uses a victim narrative to explain how she has been abused and then asserts that she has a privilege to claim ownership of yoga and Hindi.
I don’t buy any of it. I’m sorry that she feels upset, but too bad, I feel upset sometimes too.
This victim narrative of rights to special privileges due to an historical colonial rule seems to have permeated the western university system over the last 20 years under the pretence of seeking social justice. Yet when we look at individuals we might see that some apparently victimised people have more privilege than the alleged perpetrators.
This all comes down to a view that all members of a group as defined by culture, skin colour, physical characteristics, country of birth or origin are either equally oppressed or equally perpetrators of oppression. How insulting and oppressive to paint all white people as oppressors or all brown people as victims.
There are pros and cons for Ms Muddagouni to live in Australia or India, yet she chooses to live in Australia. Now she demands a privilege of owning anything that has evolved from her culture of birth. What about getting off that high horse and working together towards equality? Or are you too special for that?
“The practice of yoga in western countries for white audiences began in the 1960s when Indian yoga gurus sold yoga as a way to fill a perceived gap in their audience’s spirituality.”
Kanma states the reason that the west have yoga is because yoga was sold by Indian yoga gurus in western countries. So these gurus apparently commodified their own culture to make money from western markets. In fact one of Melbourne’s most well respected and popular yoga teacher trainers is an Indian man from India.
“The history of colonisation in India means that the practice of yoga in countries with colonial ties, like Australia, can never truly be a friendly exchange.”
Kanma’s statement that colonialism by the British in India gives justification to deny all exchange between those who identify as Indian and those who identify as Australian is simply absurd. So this man of Indian heritage who has set up his yoga training school is somehow being taken advantage of by the white women of European heritage who attend his training school? Perhaps this man of Indian heritage is some sort of masochist.
Human beings have been trading their wares cross tribal and geographical boundaries since forever. Certainly there is mass exploitation in the world today due to economic disparity supported by political, religious, cultural and sectarian coercions. You have to ask yourself, are you contributing to division, or making a healthy contribution towards equality for all.
“It also furthers the economic exploitation of the colonised by the colonisers – landing the profits from a practice that has been appropriated from the colonised in the pockets of the colonisers.”
The complaint that a white women of European heritage shouldn’t be allowed to make money from running yoga classes in Australia is as ridiculous as complaining that Indians shouldn’t be allowed to make money from selling pizza in India. Are we all expected to retain our allotted cultural heritage thus retaining clear and distinct cultural boundaries?
Or is it that only those who belong to an allotted grouping whose ancestors may or may not have suffered in the past from subjugation by way of invasion, who are then allowed such a privilege? What confusion this might cause for a person of mixed heritage. This is starting to sound more and more like a South African apartheid policy.
What is perhaps a better and more fair system is to treat everyone as equal. If they do actually suffer from a disadvantage, then assist them with that disadvantage until they are able to access equality. Can Kanma actually point to any disadvantage that she suffers in Australia based on her Indian heritage, where she can’t also point to an assistance that helps her to access equality?
Kanma is equally free to attend yoga classes. She is equally free to take the yoga teacher training course. She is equally free to run her own yoga class and make money doing so. Arguably, her yoga classes could be considered more authentic and therefore more popular.
Kanma is equally free to remain living in Australia, where she feels ‘othered’, or go live in India, where she may find increased restrictions due to her allotted caste and gender.
With any product or service, the ones that survive are the ones that cater to the consumers. It was inevitable that yoga in Australia would evolve into the type of yoga that caters to the market forces at play. Just as McDonald’s India sell the Masala Grill Veg, yoga classes in Melbourne cater to white women of European heritage.