Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi: Orientalism and the Mystical Marketplace

Sophia Rose Arjana

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From jewellery to meditation pillows to tourist retreats, religious traditions – especially those of the East – are being commodified as never before. Imitated and rebranded as ‘New Age’ or ‘spiritual’, they are marketed to secular Westerners as an answer to suffering in the modern world, the ‘mystical’ and ‘exotic’ East promising a path to enlightenment and inner peace.

Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi, Sophia Rose Arjana examines the appropriation and sale of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam in the West today, the role of mysticism and Orientalism in the religious marketplace, and how the commodification of religion impacts people’s lives.


Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi highlights the hidden costs of what would appear to be positive stereotypes about Eastern religiosity. In doing so, Arjana interrogates cultural colonialism, i.e. the borrowing of other people’s cultures and religions without giving credit to actual persons and institutions… With its comprehensive theoretically informed approach and exciting case studies, I would especially recommend this book for use in undergraduate classes.’ ― Religion (Liz Wilson, Miami University)

‘an expansive book, covering the intersection of mysticism and capitalism… illuminating… I would recommend this book in undergraduate classrooms learning about Asian religions and especially the last chapter for a media studies class. This type of sweeping project is difficult to pull off, and Arjana certainly does an admirable job.’ ― 
Politics, Religion & Ideology

‘A wide-ranging overview of the ongoing power and cultural significance of long-standing Western Orientalist tropes about “the Mystic East”. This is an important work for anyone working on Asian traditions and their contemporary appropriation, transformation and commodification.’ -- Richard King, Professor of Buddhist and Asian Studies, University of Kent

‘A fascinating and wholly engrossing exploration of how “mysticism”, as we know it in the West, circulates as a modern-day product of colonial structures of power.’ -- Sylvia Chan-Malik, Associate Professor, Departments of American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University

‘Both scholarly and readable, 
Buying Buddha, Selling Rumi deepens our understanding of the way the West appropriates Eastern religion.’ -- Jeffrey H. Mahan, Ralph E. and Norma E. Peck Professor of Religion & Public Communication, Iliff School of Theology

‘Tribal events and mystic tourism in Bali are some of the topics entertainingly and critically described and analyzed by Arjana… The book is not only well researched with many fine examples and convincing arguments to underline the theoretical assumptions of the commodification of Eastern religions in the West; it is also well written and a pleasure to read. Furthermore, it raises some important theoretical, methodological and moral questions that could be the center of good discussions with students… The book is very interesting, well written, highly recommendable and useful for critical discussions.’ -- Journal of Religion, Media and Digital Culture

About the Author

Sophia Rose Arjana is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Western Kentucky University. Her previous books include Pilgrimage in Islam, also published by Oneworld, and Muslims in the Western Imagination, which was a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title of the Year. She lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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