Disrupting White Mindfulness

Race and racism in the wellbeing industry

Cathy-Mae Karelse
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A new concept, White Mindfulness, encapsulates the convergence of multiple social forces that shape ‘secular’ mindfulness in the West. Informed by whiteness, neoliberalism, postracialism, and a drive for meaning, the Mindfulness Industry is exploding through social media, apps, digital and print materials, as well as research and the psy-disciplines. White Mindfulness spans numerous institutions and sectors in service of reducing stress and improving wellness. Its presence is amplified by pedagogies that train educators in its image. Yet the pillars of White Mindfulness reveal institutions and pedagogies troubled by race and cultures that emphasise hyper-individualism, consumerism, and self-regulation in contrast to community, cooperatives, and co-regulation. The industry sits shoulder to shoulder with tenets of late capitalism steeped in growing inequities and deep social chasms. Originally envisioned as a public health service, engulfed by the invisibilisation of whiteness, its present composition is elitist, commodified, White, and middle and upper class. Unveiling the roots of the dominant narratives and social norms that infuse White Mindfulness and shape its social trajectory, this book reveals how it comes to reflect the power structures of the societies in which it takes root in the West. Examination of mindfulness institutions shows a predominantly elite White male leadership. But the race-gender dynamic is not confined to structures and leadership. It ripples through US-Eurocentric approaches to ownership, conceptualisation, pedagogy, and community engagement. Using concepts like People of the Global Majority and embodied justice to decentre whiteness, this book explores the decolonisation of White Mindfulness through a growing movement that stands outside its remit.

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