Mindfulness in the Discourse. Secularization of the Religious and Sacralization of the Secular on the Example of a ‚Travelling Concept' of Mindfulness.

Friday, 20 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Thea D. BOLDT, Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut Essen, Germany
Over the last two-three decades the term "mindfulness" has been progressively gaining in importance in the West, particularly because of its interdisciplinary application in the fields of the neurosciences, psychology, psychotherapy, as well as in education, sports, economy, social work, etc.. The ‚travelling concept’ of mindfulness, which was originally deduced from Buddhist philosophy and meditation practices, and which entered public Western dicourse(s) via Anglo-Saxon translation practices at the end of the 19th century, is thus subject to an interesting history of dissemination and transformation in the West; a history the adequate reappraisal of which constitutes a scientific desideratum, which shall be largely remedied with recourse to discourse analysis in the work-in-progress project presented here.

The project presupposes that mindfulness is not a uniform entity, but rather an ambiguous communicative construction which shapes itself by means of the interlinkage, the collision, as well as the reciprocal influence of various Buddhist and secular texts and contexts, discourses, and practices. The project is geared towards the examination of the communicative construction of the diverse fabric of meaning associated with the term mindfulness in the West over the time span beginning at the end of the 19th century, thereby covering its development from its origins up to the present day. The central question concerns the manner in which a layering of interpretations is brought about by the contradiction, critical influence, entanglement, takeover, supersession, transformation, and correlation of secular and religious discurses and practices of mindfulness. This will be effected by an analytical examination of the field of tension and overlaping between the Buddhist texts and practices on the one hand, and the scientific discourses and practices – particularly Buddhological, psychotherapeutical, neuroscientific, and those connected to education, social work, sports, economy, and consumption – on the other hand.