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The practice of call-and-response devotional chant, known as kirtan, has been transformed from its original religious contexts and has found new meaning in secular communities throughout yoga studios across North America. Participants of this American kirtan often find deep connections of internal, interpersonal, and spiritual natures through the experience of communal chant. This experience is a commodity, one that is sold to potential consumers in the marketplaces of spirituality, and health and wellbeing. Within these marketplaces there is a tension between the sincerity and integrity of participants and their experiences, and their collective representation in advertisements. This thesis explores the complexity present in the relationship between participants' highly personalized experiences and the way these experiences are commodified, marketed, and sold to consumers, as well as how often there is a disjuncture between the spiritual connections felt by participants and the way they are represented in kirtan advertisements and commodities that share similar consumer bases. I propose that the most productive way to analyze the kirtan experience as a commodity is first to understand ethnographically the role of kirtan in participants' lives, and then view the kirtan experience as situated in both the marketplaces for spirituality, and health and wellbeing. From this perspective, I discuss the various forces that make the experience more or less valuable, I observe how these forces are exemplified in specific advertisements, and I critique whether such marketing is disingenuous to the personal and sincere nature of these kirtan participants' experiences. Ultimately, those that have the greatest role in promoting and selling kirtan to potential consumers often create advertisements that simultaneously are reflective of their personal beliefs and exploitive of both potential consumers' and their own notions of the idealized kirtan experience.
A Thesis submitted to the College of Music in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Frank Gunderson, Professor Directing Thesis; Michael B. Bakan, Committee Member; Charles Brewer, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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