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Title: Once more to the body : an ethnography of mindfulness practitioners in the United Kingdom
Author: Wheater, Kitty
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis explores embodiment and self-shaping among practitioners of mindfulness-based interventions for health and wellbeing in the United Kingdom. It draws on the anthropology of embodied experience, the body, and ethics, to delve beneath an ethnographic problem: why does mindful self-cultivation entail so many notions of 'mindfulness', the 'practitioner', and the 'body'? Based on fieldwork at a leading mindfulness research, teaching, and teacher-training centre, and participant-experience in mindfulness praxis, the thesis explores the making of mindful subjectivities. Practitioners cultivate a trajectory through distinctive temporal and embodied experiences of self-shaping: where the practitioner begins with hope of rapid transformation, she must realise that she is already and perennially 'mindful'; where she begins as impatient and 'heady', she becomes curious and ‘embodied'. The thesis argues that although practitioners' claims and practices of turning to the 'present' and the 'body' appear dualistic, it is through the turning itself that dualisms are ultimately undone, and new forms of attention and intention with regard to oneself emerge. Nonetheless, the thesis demonstrates that this trajectory towards 'embodiment' may not be fulfilled at all. Indeed, practitioners must perpetually adjust their direction of travel. The thesis explores anthropology's own concepts of embodiment by arguing that the felt sense of being a self-shaping mindfulness practitioner entails progression, but also stuckness, hesitation, and doubt, in which commitments feel noncommittal and embodied capacities unstable. Analysing these experiences within frameworks from the anthropology of ethics, the thesis calls for the perspective not just of manoeuvrability as a virtue but also of the subject's embodied sense of their perpetual forward motion: the ways in which subjects encounter and create their futures, amidst the diversities and instabilities of themselves and their world.
Supervisor: Hsu, Elisabeth ; Potter, Caroline Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available