This article examines how the missionary work of Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), promised to advance the American way of life while re-affirming the traditional and authentic nature of his message. Drawing on Yogananda’s writing and the SRF’s in-house publication, this cultural history contextualizes Yogananda’s career within processes of decolonization, America’s deepening economic and political connections to the developing world, and consumer-driven shifts in the religious marketplace. Yogananda’s message provided a means for managing difference while seeking to forge greater sentimental, cultural, and commercial connections between the United States and India. His career offers insights into how American “exceptionalism” met the challenges of global cultural exchange amid geopolitical imaginaries of the nation’s burgeoning empire.
Pilgrims’ Progress: “Efficient America,” “Spiritual India,” and America’s Transnational Religious Imagination
Eileen Luhr is a professor of history at California State University, Long Beach. Her in-progress manuscript, Pilgrims’ Progress: Globalization and the American Religious Imagination, examines religion and consumer lifestyle practices within the broader cultural and economic processes of late capitalism, the politics of place, and transnational exchanges.
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Eileen Luhr; Pilgrims’ Progress: “Efficient America,” “Spiritual India,” and America’s Transnational Religious Imagination. Pacific Historical Review 8 January 2021; 90 (1): 57–83. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/phr.2021.90.1.57
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