Accepted Paper:

Journey in Rishikesh: a (neoliberal) quest for the true self  


Camille Simard-Legault (University of Ottawa)

Paper Short Abstract:

This poster will look at experiences of tourists in Rishikesh (India) using movement through the practice of both yoga and travel as a way to fulfil a “project of the self”. The links between neoliberalism, tourism, authenticity, and the modern spiritual quest are explored.

Paper long abstract:

Every year, Rishikesh, situated on the banks of the Ganges in himalayan India, attracts thousands of tourists searching for an "authentic" yoga through which they may better be able to find their "true self". This search for the self is relevant to our understanding of the neoliberal world and its effects on the individual. The spiritual quest upon which western yogis embark stems from a feeling of meaninglessness deriving from the modern way of life. The motivations of these yogis also derive from a neoliberal conception of the individual as responsible for his own success or failure, therefore always in an infinite movement towards a better self, living a "project of the self". Yoga pairs well with this neoliberal project of the self as a technique to creatively find "success" in reaching a productive and harmonious self. Expecting to find a yoga that will be more authentic in Rishikesh compared to the one they typically practice at home, travelling yogis seek "authentic yoga" for it is a tool sure to be more powerful and effective in fulfilling the project of the self. Yet, once these western yogis set foot in Rishikesh, it is evident that the space claimed by so called "authentic yoga" performed by devoted indian pilgrims is shared with commodified touristic activities and products. This paradox will be explored through the experiences of 10 yogis interviewed and how these are shaped by neoliberal logics as well as transformed by the new-found logics of the Rishikesh environment.

Panel POST-01
Poster session