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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, or the way in which a community's self-understanding is influenced by (or imposed by, or imported from) foreign sources. 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.
Related phrases include "hermeneutical feedback loop", "re-enculturation", and "self-orientalization". The term "pizza effect" was coined by the Hindu monk and professor of Anthropology at Syracuse University, Agehananda Bharati in 1970.
The original examples given by Agehananda Bharati mostly had to do with popularity and status:
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."
- The Apu trilogy films of Satyajit Ray, which were flops in India before they were given prizes in Western countries and re-evaluated as classics of the Indian cinema
- The popularity in India of movements like those of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and ISKCON based on their popularity in the west
- The popularity of yoga, several gurus, and some other Indian systems and teachings following their popularity in the west
- The exalted status of the Bhagavad Gita in Hinduism, where, although it was always highly regarded, it gained its current prominence only following Western attempts to identify a single canonical "Hindu Bible"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- The influence of translations by the British-based Pali Text Society on South Asian Buddhism.
- 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.
Chicken tikka masala, a dish created in Britain, based on Indian cooking, which then became popular in India.
Teppanyaki, a Western-influenced style created in Japan, popular in the U.S.
- 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."
- 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: "...pizza-loving 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."
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