Congratulations to the CU-Boulder Class of Fall 2014! We would also like to extend a special congratulations to Alec Vishal Rouben, our graduating senior in Asian Studies. Yesterday, Alec and Jeremy Sjodahl-Brainard each presented their senior Asian Studies theses to a crowd of about fifteen students, faculty, and community members.
In his presentation, Jeremy presented the research he did with Professor Marcia Yonemoto of the Department of History. In his thesis, entitled "The Story of Minamoto Musashi: a Tradition that Lasted into a Modern Sensation," Jeremy examined how Musashi, a samurai from the seventeenth century who was involved in the wars that resulted in the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate, had become a pop culture icon in twentieth-century Japan and continues to hold significant cultural currency. Jeremy argues that it was precisely because very little is known about the historical Musashi that in 1935, the author of Musashi was able to fill in the details of Musashi's life, thereby turning Musashi into a relatable figure who could have cultural resonance, particularly as he exemplified the qualities of self-improvement, individualism, and determination.
After Jeremy's presentation, Alec took the floor. He presented the research he did for his project, "An Ancient Spiritual Tradition Collides with a Capitalist Economy," which he studied under the guidance of Professor Deborah Whitehead of the Department of Religious Studies. In his research, Alec examined the ways in which yoga changed from its traditional, spiritual form, to a exercise that is a commodity in North America. As he argued, at the end of the 19th century, yoga began its transformation to its contemporary form and was then taken to the United States. Since then, in order to make yoga more accessible, corporate yoga has focused on the exercise aspect of traditional yoga, including spirituality as only an occasional aside, thereby stripping yoga of its full benefit and meaning. After presenting his research, Alec also presented a short yoga demonstration.
After graduation, Alec plans to continue teaching yoga until January, when he will begin his travels to Indonesia, Thailand, and Costa Rica. After he gets back, he plans to return to the Boulder area and continue teaching and studying yoga.
Jeremy has decided to defer graduation until Fall 2015 so that he can study Japanese abroad for a year at Kansai Gaidai, a university in Western Japan. While there, he hopes to also continue his research for his history honor's thesis.
Congratulations to Alec and Jeremy on their excellent research this semester, and congratulations to all of CU's graduating class.