Pizza effect

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The pizza effect is a term used especially in religious studies and sociology for the phenomenon of elements of a nation or people's culture being transformed or at least more fully embraced elsewhere, then re-imported back to their culture of origin,[1] or the way in which a community's self-understanding is influenced by (or imposed by, or imported from) foreign sources.[2] It is named after the idea that modern pizza toppings were developed among Italian immigrants in the United States (rather than in native Italy, where in its simpler form it was originally looked down upon), and was later exported back to Italy to be interpreted as a delicacy in Italian cuisine.[3]

Related phrases include "hermeneutical feedback loop", "re-enculturation", and "self-orientalization". The term "pizza effect" was coined by the Austrian-born Hindu monk and professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University, Agehananda Bharati[2][4][3] in 1970.[5]


The original examples given by Agehananda Bharati mostly had to do with popularity and status:

Analyst Mark Sedgwick wrote that Islamist terrorism, and specifically suicide bombing, can be seen as examples, beginning as isolated interpretations of the concept of shahid, or martyrdom, then being re-exported to the greater Muslim world.[8]

The Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City was inspired by an event in the James Bond film Spectre, which was fictional at the time of the film's production. [9]

The founders of the Theosophical Society, Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, were influenced by Eastern religions, then placed their headquarters in Adyar, Chennai, from where they spread their views within India.[4]

Similarly, Buddhist modernism or "Protestant Buddhism" was developed by Westerners, who according to scholar Stephen Jenkins, "mistook it for an indigenous Sri Lankan product", and they in turn influenced Sri Lankan Buddhist Anagarika Dharmapala, who, along with the Theosophical Society, was instrumental in spreading Buddhism in both India and the West.[10]:xvi

According to scholar Kim Knott, Mahatma Gandhi "was not very interested in religion until he went to London to study law, where he studied the Bhagavad Gita in English in Sir Edwin Arnold's translation, and this deeply influenced his spiritual outlook."[4]

The influence of translations by the British-based Pali Text Society on South Asian Buddhism.[2]

The religious thought of Ibn Rushd (Averroes), which was taken up by 19th-century Europeans such as Ernest Renan, and thereby regained popularity during the Nahda, the Islamic renaissance.[11]

Chicken tikka masala, a dish created in Britain, based on Indian cooking, which then became popular in India.[12][13]

Teppanyaki, a Western-influenced style created in Japan, popular in the U.S.

Salsa music: the first salsa bands were mainly Puerto Ricans who moved to New York in the 1930s.

Haoqiu zhuan, a Chinese novel. James St. André, author of "Modern Translation Theory and Past Translation Practice: European Translations of the Haoqiu zhuan", wrote that in China the novel was originally "considered second-rate fiction and stood in danger of being completely forgotten with changes in literary taste in the early twentieth century."[14] He stated that the fact there had been interest in translating the novel into English "gave life and fame" to Haoqiu zhuan and therefore affected its standing in China.[14]


Scholar David Miller wrote that Westerners were responsible for "…the renewed interest in the four Vedas and the Upanishads, as texts in themselves apart from the endless number of commentaries that have been written by Indians to interpret and to systematize the texts," and that due to this interest, "Indian scholars have also served up that menu, often in a less appetizing way than their Western counterparts. In so doing they have missed the very life force or essence of Indian ethical traditions."[15]


Scholar Jørn Borup wrote about an "inverted pizza-effect", when a society's modification of another culture gets further re-modified by that same society, such as European philosophers including Martin Heidegger "appear to have been significantly inspired by Eastern thought - an Eastern thought itself presented through "Protestant" or "Western" eyes. This transformation is naturally not a unique phenomenon in religious studies, where interpretations, re-interpretations and inventions are seen as common characteristics of religion."[16]

Stephen Jenkins noted that the feedback phenomenon could continue; in the case of pizza, he wrote that the return of pizza to Italy again influenced American cuisine: " American tourists, going to Italy in the millions, sought out authentic Italian pizza. Italians, responding to this demand, developed pizzerias to meet American expectations. Delighted with their discovery of "authentic" Italian pizza, Americans subsequently developed chains of "authentic" Italian brick-oven pizzerias. Hence, Americans met their own reflection in the other and were delighted."[10]:81

Jim Douglas, familiar with Bharati's thesis, applied it to black blues originating in the United States before 1960. The music of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, etc. went over to England, where it was embraced by other musicians (especially white men playing electric guitar). Then, this re-packaged blues came back to the US presented by the Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, etc. in the late 1960s where it was embraced by baby boomers (who had never heard of Robert Johnson, etc.). Later, some of these American baby boomers discovered the roots of the British blues-rock in the recordings of the original American blues artists.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christopher S. Queen; Charles S. Prebish; Damien Keown, eds. (2003), Action dharma: new studies in engaged Buddhism, Routledge, p. 33, ISBN 978-0-7007-1594-7
  2. ^ a b c David Gordon White (1991), Myths of the dog-man, University of Chicago Press, p. 267, ISBN 978-0-226-89509-3
  3. ^ a b Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa), "The Pizza Effect" (in the context of Krishna Consciousness)
  4. ^ a b c Kim Knott (2000), Hinduism: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, p. 78, ISBN 978-0-19-285387-5
  5. ^ a b Agehananda Bharati (1970). "The Hindu Renaissance and its Apologetic Patterns". The Journal of Asian Studies. Association for Asian Studies. 29 (2): 267–287. doi:10.2307/2942625. JSTOR 2942625.
  6. ^ a b Agehananda Bharati (1980), "Indian Expatriates in North America and neo-Hindu Movements", in Vinayshil Gautam; J. S. Yadava (eds.), The Communication of Ideas, Concept Publishing Company, p. 245
  7. ^ Gavin D. Flood (1996), An introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press, p. 267, ISBN 978-0-521-43878-0
  8. ^ Mark Sedgwick (2007), Islamist Terrorism and the “Pizza Effect”, Perspectives on Terrorism, Volume I, Issue 6
  9. ^ David Agren, October 30, 2016, The Guardian, Mexico City's James Bond-inspired Day of the Dead parade gets mixed reviews, retrieved October 28, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Stephen Jenkins (2002), "Black ships, Blavatsky, and the Pizza effect: critical self-consciousness as a thematic foundation for courses in Buddhist studies", in Victor Sōgen Hori; Richard P. Hayes; James Mark Shields (eds.), Teaching Buddhism in the West: from the wheel to the Web
  11. ^ Oliver Leaman (1999), A brief introduction to Islamic philosophy, Wiley-Blackwell, p. 150, ISBN 978-0-7456-1961-3
  12. ^ Robin Cook's chicken tikka masala speech: Extracts from a speech by the foreign secretary to the Social Market Foundation in London (April 19, 2001). Guardian.
  13. ^ Anita Mannur, Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture (2009). Temple University Press: p. 3.
  14. ^ a b St. André, James. "Modern Translation Theory and Past Translation Practice: European Translations of the Haoqiu zhuan" (Chapter 2). In: Chan, Leo Tak-hung (editor). One Into Many: Translation and the Dissemination of Classical Chinese Literature (Issue 18 of Approaches to translation studies). Rodopi, 2003. Start page 39. ISBN 9042008156, 9789042008151. p. 39.
  15. ^ Miller, D. (1981). "Sources of Hindu Ethical Studies_ a Critical Review". The Journal of Religious Ethics. Blackwell Publishing. 9 (2): 186–198. doi:10.2307/40014933. JSTOR 40014933.
  16. ^ Jørn Borup (2004), Zen and the Art of Inverting Orientalism, Walter de Gruyter, p. 477, ISBN 3-11-017698-X