This thesis locates the success and influence of modern yoga in the shared space of popular culture, neoliberalism and post-feminism. By focusing on the representations and discourse of the modern 'yoga girl', this project shows how neoliberal and post- feminist fantasies of individual autonomy, freedom, choice and authenticity are valorized over collective wellbeing and personal welfare. Through the calculated exclusion of ethical foundations and politics, modern yoga is facilitating exploitation, growing social injustice and a path into a post-welfare era. Shifting the cause of suffering to the individual and not the political and economic system at large, makes modern yoga not only a lucrative business allowing participants to cope with the crippling effects of late capitalism, but further makes the popular yogi an unaware advocate for precisely the systematic injustices that cause their suffering in the first place. The following research unfolds chronologically, first outlining the historical emergence of the modern yogi, followed by the analysis of her contemporary role in popular culture and significance for women. Among the issues discussed are the commitment of young women to the precarious work of yoga teaching, the objectification and governmentality over the female body and the demise of communal thinking and political action that were once intrinsic to premodern yoga systems yogic teachings.
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Thesis advisor: Laba, Martin
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