In this second part of our mini-series on the history and politics of yoga, we play our recent interview with Shanice Jones Cameron about her research on Black women and their engagement yoga through social media. Our previous episode concerned the popularization of yoga in twentieth-century American culture and the ways in which yoga was transformed into a “spiritual commodity” in the consumer marketplace. Not every community enjoys equal access to this spiritual commodity. However, as Shanice Jones Cameron explains, today modern postural yoga remains “a form of exercise that remains exclusive to a privileged subset of the population,” while the typical yoga practitioner, as it appears in advertisements and popular culture, tend to be White, female, and middle-class. This leads to important questions concerning the politics of representation in contemporary yoga culture.
In a 2019 essay for the academic journal Race and Yoga, Shanice Jones Cameron examined how social media platforms like Instagram can be used to create digital spaces for Black women and to highlight their engagement with yoga. She specifically explored the popular Instagram page Black Girl Yoga, detailing how it highlights Black/African American yoginis and works to increase their visibility in popular culture. In this episode, Shanice discusses her research the intersections of race and representation in contemporary yoga culture, and explains the increasing importance of highlight Black women’s engagement with yoga through social media pages like Black Girl Yoga.
Shanice Jones Cameron earned a M.A. in Communication from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and she is currently is a third year PhD student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Department of Communication. Her research areas of interest include media studies, critical health communication, and Black feminism. Specifically, Shanice explores black women’s health and well-being discourses on social media. She has a keen interest in highlighting online spaces where Black women produce knowledge about their own bodies and lived experiences in terms of holistic health and well-being. Her work has been featured in Race and Yoga, and she is currently working on a qualitative research study about Black women long distance runners on Instagram. She is also the host of Her Guided Evolution, a weekly podcast intended to promote well-being, self-care, and personal growth among Black women.
- Shanice Jones Cameron’s recent article “Be Still, Be Present: Black Girl Yoga and Digital Counter Spaces,” published in the journal Race and Yoga.
- Here is the website for Black Girl Yoga, the group Cameron discusses in her article.
- A New York Times article from July 27, 2020 titled “Black Yoga Collectives Aim to Make Space for Healing“.
- A 2018 article on Medium asking, “Why are Black Women Lacking Visibility in Yoga Spaces?“
- Lakshmi Nair’s recent article, “When Even Spirit Has No Place to Call Home: Cultural Appropriation, Microagressions, and Structural Racism in the Yoga Workplace,” published in the journal Race and Yoga.
Sound Acknowledgements: Three sound clips in the episode were obtained from Freesound.org. The links to the sound clips can be found here, here, and here.
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