Krishna Consciousness and the Makeover of a Movement
Published by: Indiana University Press
How do religious groups reinvent themselves in order to attract new audiences? How do they rebrand their messages and recast their rituals in order to make their followers more diverse?
In Branding Bhakti, Nicole Karapanagiotis considers the new branding of the Hare Krishna Movement, or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Known primarily for their orange robes, shaved heads, ecstatic dancing on the streets, and exuberant Hindu-style temple worship, many contemporary ISKCON groups are radically reinventing their public presentation and their style of worship in order to attract a global audience to their movement. Karapanagiotis explores their innovative and complex approaches in both the United States and India by following three new ISKCON brands aimed at gathering new followers. Each is led by a world-renowned ISKCON guru and his global disciples, and each is promoted through a mix of digital and social media and the construction of an innovative "worship-scape." These new spaces trade ISKCON's traditional temples for corporate work-life balance programs, posh yoga studios, urban spiritual lounges, edgy mantra clubs/lofts, and rural meditative retreat facilities.
Branding Bhakti not only investigates the methods the ISKCON movement uses to position itself for growth but also highlights devotees' painful and complicated struggles as they work to transform their shrinking, sectarian movement into one with global religious appeal.
Note on Transliteration
1. A Brief History of ISKCON: 1965-present
2. Contextualizing the Krishna Branders
3. Krishna Gets a New PR Team: Branding ISKCON as a Meditative Social Club
4. Branding ISKCON as the Heart of Yoga
5. Krishna West: ISKCON Must Be Reinvented, Not (Just) Rebranded
"A fascinating story, well-told"~John Stratton Hawley, Columbia University
"The Hare Krishna movement is at a crossroads. . . . This insightful and much needed study describes how ISKCON is struggling to rebrand itself to attract a more diverse membership. A significant contribution and a must read for those interested in the organizational development of new religions."~E. Burke Rochford Jr., author of Hare Krishna Transformed
"This is a fascinating and utterly refreshing account of the reinvention of a theistic, temple-based tradition of Krishna devotion for a global audience in recent times. Branding Bhakti brings together perspectives from religion and marketing studies to make a compelling case for understanding ISKCON through the lens of globalization, competition, and deterritorialization. Karapanagiotis . . . makes a fresh and original contribution to scholarship on bhakti, and the burgeoning field of religion and globalization—particularly in the wake of digital religion."~Varuni Bhatia, author of Unforgetting Chaitanya
"Karapanagiotis skillfully examines the complex dynamic of a movement that originated in India with the specific mission of spreading throughout North America and Europe that eventually alienated its target converts. . . . This book will clearly be very useful for scholars of new religions, who will make up the majority of those wanting to know what happened with ISKCON after the lawsuits and scandals of the 1970s and 1980s. Students and scholars of religion and marketing in general will also find this book worth reading. However, it will also appeal more widely to a general audience because it is a well written and carefully argued study."~Susannah Crockford, University of Exeter, Nova Religio
New Books Network interview: Branding Bhakti