Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Mindfulness as a practice of self-care is presented as a solution to everything from stress and anxiety to productivity and weight loss. The mindfulness community in the US is associated with whiteness and relative wealth (Blum 2014), and is largely secular and based in individual practice. Mindfulness in this context is defined as “awareness of present experience with acceptance” (Germer 2005). Recent works have critically examined some of the ways in which mindfulness practices are (largely inadvertently) presented and leveraged in ways that are exclusionary (Syedullah et al 2016; Washam 2016; Yang 2017), calling for a rethinking of the presentation and practice of mindfulness in order to recapture its radical potential to create more just and inclusive communities (e.g. Berila 2015). This paper explores the intertextual processes by which terms such as “self”, “mindfulness”, and “acceptance” create prototypes through which mindfulness is understood to be a practice of sitting meditation with the goal of learning to be happy and manage individual stress, potentially resulting in “spiritual bypassing” (e.g. Simmer-Brown and Sherrell 2017). Framing mindfulness as an act of self-care erases the ways that self is embedded in community. The promotion of acceptance in particular uncritically includes acceptance of all circumstances, with circumstances of social injustice left unexamined. This analysis looks at the presentation of mindfulness in popular texts to come to a greater understanding of the microlinguistic processes by which the terminology of mindfulness is intertextually linked to and interpreted in the context of larger neoliberal ideologies.