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Document Type:Latin Dissertation
Language of Document:English
Record Number:53656
Doc. No:TL23610
Call number:‭3338502‬
Main Entry:Michal Pagis
Title & Author:Cultivating selves: Vipassana meditation and the microsociology of experienceMichal Pagis
College:The University of Chicago
Date:2008
Degree:Ph.D.
student score:2008
Page No:289
Abstract:This dissertation is an ethnographic study that traces the production, cultivation, and maintenance of selves. Modern culture includes a growing interest in the cultivation of inner spheres, advising each and every individual to search for an experience of interiority that is independent from social and material surroundings. The Enlightenment's resistance to tradition, the search for a "true" self and the emphasis on self-mastery are all dimensions of the effort to free the self from its contingencies. As a result of this focus on the self, ancient techniques of self-cultivation gained renewed interest. One of these techniques is the practice of Vipassana (insight) meditation, a Theravada Buddhist meditation. Vipassana meditation was traditionally practiced by monks as a way of seeking enlightenment. In its modern manifestation, people who have little to do with Buddhism who do not call themselves Buddhists go to silent meditation retreats where they practice renunciation and embodied introspection, entering a process meant to lead to the de-stabilization of the experience of a permanent, stable self. This thesis is based on two years investigation of practitioners of Vipassana meditation in Israel and the United States. Through the use of sixty open-ended interviews, participant observation in meditation centers, recurrent interviews with twelve practitioners and interviews with their family members, I follow this attempt to cultivate a self that is "self-dependent." I argue that cultivating a self is a multi-level process that transforms meaning not only in the symbolic, abstract level but at the level of embodied semiotics. I illustrate how the process of cultivation is based on a long process of training, habituation and maintenance, where one gradually detaches from external contexts that stabilize self and experience. This process is contingent on certain institutionalized environments (such as the meditation center) that allow for the gradual replacement of different social and cultural stabilizing mechanisms: the replacement of language with embodied reflexivity, the move from anchoring subjective experience in intersubjectivity to anchoring it in solitary practice, and the cultivation of emotional autonomy. These processes lead to the re-orientation of the individual towards the social world, influencing both self-to-self and self-to-other relations.
Subject:Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Self; Meditation; Microsociology; Embodiment; Buddhism; Vipassana; Religion; Cultural anthropology; Sociology; 0326:Cultural anthropology; 0626:Sociology; 0318:Religion
Added Entry:A. G. Abbott, Andreas
Added Entry:The University of Chicago