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Title: Rethinking the politics of meditation: Practice, affect and ontology
Authors: Carvalho, António 
Keywords: Affect; Mindfulness; Ontological politics; Social studies of meditation; Vipassana
Issue Date: 6-Jul-2021
Publisher: Sage
Project: SFRH/BD/62928/2009 
Serial title, monograph or event: The Sociological Review
Volume: 69
Issue: 6
Abstract: This article develops an ontological approach to study meditation in practice. Recognizing that social studies of meditation are dominated by critical and humanist standpoints, it suggests that the politics of meditation should not be indexed to hegemonic social forces – capitalism, neoliberalism, medicalization – but to what it can do to bodies, selves and environments through particular performances and engagements with non-humans. In order to develop this argument, the article delves into two popular practices of meditation – Vipassana, in the tradition of S. N. Goenka, and Mindfulness, according to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. The empirical data stem from fieldwork carried out between 2010 and 2013 in France, Portugal and the United Kingdom. Twenty-four semi-structured interviews were conducted with meditators, as well as participant observation at meditation retreats and local practice groups. The article explores how these two articulations of Vipassana and Mindfulness allow practitioners to reconfigure how they perform their bodies and selves, leaning towards versions of subjectivity that contrast with paradigmatic versions of the modern self. It suggests that the ontological politics of meditation are multiple, involving a wide range of performances, effects and arrangements, requiring social scientists to take into account how meditation unfolds in practice in order to avoid totalizing generalizations.
ISSN: 0038-0261
DOI: 10.1177/00380261211029457
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:I&D CES - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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