Prof Richard H. Seager, Bates and Benjamin Professor of Classical and Religious Studies Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, USA gave a talk on Nationalism, Softpower Yoga, and the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893 at the University of Hyderabad (UoH).

Speaking at the lecture organised by the UGC Centre for Study of Indian Diaspora, School of Social Sciences, Prof. Seager said that for a half century, the World’s Parliament of Religions of 1893 has been recalled in the United States as an event that introduced the practice of Hinduism / yoga and Zen Buddhism to the West. Typically, these developments have been embraced by practitioners in romantic terms as expressions of ancient Asian forms of practice and spirituality unalloyed by modernity. Only recently, have Americans begun to understand them as modernist constructions tied in complex ways to Asian nationalist movements, he added.

Prof. Seager’s talk which was attended by the students, faculty and staff of the university, addressed the historical and historiographic shifts in understanding the significance of Asian contributions to the Parliament. Particular reference was given to the image of Vivekananda, current developments within the Hindu-American Diaspora and American yoga communities, and the ‘softpower yoga’ diplomacy of Narendra Modi during his 2014 visit to the United States.

Prof Richard H Seager (Ph.D. Harvard 1983) is professor of religious studies at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, USA. Some of his significant publications include Buddhism in America. Second revised edition. Columbia Contemporary American Religion Series. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012); The World’s Parliament of Religions: the East / West Encounter, Chicago 1893. Second printing, with a new Preface (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009); and The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Selected Addresses from the World’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893. (LaSalle, IL: Open Court Press, 1993)