Dr Elizabeth De Michelis

E De Michelis_portraitElizabeth De Michelis has a long standing interest in religions and religious phenomena, especially those concerned with the cultivation of contemplative and meditative, non-secular lifestyles and related practices and theorizations. She is also very interested in textual studies, languages, problems of authority validation, and in the dynamics of cultural and cross-cultural transmission. Her areas of academic expertise are the history of yoga; the intellectual history of modern yoga; modern yoga ideologies, groups and institutions; and western esotericism’s appropriations of South Asian disciplines. She has carried out in-depth research in these fields and remains keenly interested in them.

After working in business during the early part of her professional life, Elizabeth retrained to work in academia after which she held positions at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge and at the Theology Faculty, University of Oxford. This included working as Director of the Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research from 2000 to 2006; see a summary of this work here.

Supported from the start by Suzanne Newcombe and Mark Singleton, Elizabeth was the driving force behind the creation of the Modern Yoga Research website in 2006. She hopes to further expand the site’s scope and relevance in future. More recently, due to her own research interests and professional experience in business and in academic research administration she has been turning her attention to exploring the institutional aspects of yoga studies and research. She is interested in promoting quality work in these areas, and in communicating with people who have similar interests at heart.

Cambridge University Press contracted her to write a reasoned Introduction to South Asian and South Asian-inspired forms of yoga. It’s a fascinating task as the topic is complex and wide-ranging, and understanding it requires acquainting oneself with a range of profoundly different forms of thought. This work is greatly helped by the excellent new research that has been emerging on topics such as the early history of yoga, medieval developments, and pre- and early-modern socio-religious texts and contexts, to name a few. Last but not least, Elizabeth’s own field of modern yoga studies has also been yielding good fruits, a fact which gives her great satisfaction.

Elizabeth holds a BA in Modern Languages, an MA in Religious Studies from SOAS, University of London and a PhD from the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge. Her doctoral work, published under the title A History of Modern Yoga, was on the modernisation of Hinduism and more particularly on the modernisation of yoga and its transmission to the West.

In 2015-2016 Elizabeth co-organised the conference yoga darśana, yoga sādhana: traditions, transmissions, transformations, which took place at the Jagiellonian University in Krakòw, Poland, on 19-21 May 2016. More information on this event can be found here.

Elizabeth’s academia.edu page may be found here.


forthcoming 2018 – “The Modern Spirit of Yoga: Idioms and Practices”, in Flood, Gavin (Ed.), The Oxford History of Hinduism: Religious Practice (title TBC), Oxford University Press

2008 – “Modern Yoga: History and Forms”, in Byrne, Jean and Singleton, Mark (Eds.), Yoga in the Modern World: Uses, Adaptations, Appropriations, Routledge, London and New York: 17-35.

2007 – ‘A Preliminary Survey of Modern Yoga Studies’, Asian Medicine, Tradition and Modernity, vol. 3, no. 1: 1-19.

2005 – “Modern Yoga” in Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements, Peter Clarke (ed.), Routledge, Oxford.

2004 – A History of Modern Yoga: Patañjali and Western Esotericism, Bloomsbury, London and New York.

2000/2001 – “Report on the 2001 DHIIR workshop on the modernisation of yoga and Ayurveda”, Cambridge Anthropology, 22-2 :77-82 (co-authored with Françoise Barbira Freedman).

1995 – “Some comments on the contemporary practice of yoga, with particular reference to British Hatha Yoga schools”, Journal of Contemporary Religion, vol. 10, no.3 :243-255.

1995 –“Contemporary Hatha Yoga in the UK”, Journal of Contemporary Religion, vol.10, no.2 :193-5.

Production overseen as part of DHIIR Directorship

The proceedings of the 2004 DHIIR Conference on Ayurveda: Modern and Global Identities were published in 2008 by the State University of New York Press (Dagmar Benner and Frederick Smith, eds.), under the title Modern and Global Ayurveda: Pluralism and Paradigms.

The proceedings of the 2000 DHIIR Conference on Devotion in the Indian Tradition were published in 2005 by Orient Longman under the title The Intimate Other (John Brockington and Anna King eds.).

The proceedings of the 1998 DHIIR Conference on Creating the Future were published by Oxford University Press India in March 2004 under the tile Playing for Real: Hindu Role Models, Religion, and Gender (Jacqueline Suthren Hirst and Lynn Thomas eds.).

A book partly based on the 1998 DHIIR workshop on Yoga: The Indian Tradition was published by Routledge Curzon in 2003 under the title Yoga: The Indian Tradition (David Carpenter and Ian Whicher, eds.).