The Southern Chinese martial arts are typically organised into lineages and ‘families’ through which very specific techniques of the body and practices are transmitted over subsequent generations and between far-flung places, thereby developing specific sense of belonging. Wing Chun Kung Fu is a popular system that has been subject to disparate social scientific studies pertaining to identity, embodiment and pedagogy. This confessional tale considers Spatz’s work (2015) advocating the exploration of technical knowledge via practice-based research. The chapter challenges the notion of a researcher clearly being able to leave a field (the Kung Fu family) in which they have been totally embedded through their mode of embodiment and ways of moving. The chapter thus outlines the fact that a fieldwork site is part of the constitution of a practitioner-researcher-instructor. Using his own experience as a martial arts ethnographer since 2004, the author charts his research on/through bodily knowledge via his main martial art of Wing Chun that resulted in two follow-up studies. He conducted these studies with increased geographical distance from his own teacher (sifu), seniors (sihing) and school (kwoon) in Britain when he moved to Mexico as an independent researcher. From the lessons gleaned from these two pragmatic research endeavours, alongside subsequent fieldwork in other martial arts contexts, the author argues that ethnographers cannot exit a field if that field is within them. Rather than perceiving this as problematic, he suggests that practitioner-researchers can develop scholarship around the skills and knowledge that they have acquired and are transmitting.
Over a four-year period, we engaged in a community-based post-critical ethnography in Riverhill – a mid-sized city located in southern Appalachia in the United States. Beginning in 2007, a non-profit organization placed Burundians in public housing projects in Riverhill. Through English as a Second Language tutoring and a small interdisciplinary research team, we met with Burundian children and families the next year. Most Burundians came to the United States from refugee camps in Tanzania, Republic of Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This chapter, traces the authors’ layered and multiple exits from living in Riverhill. Specifically, the authors mark exits from some places and people within the community and the exit from an interdisciplinary research team itself, and from thresholds of communication and relationships that became unbearable to maintain. Haunted by what was, and in touch with some of what is through connections with some members of Burundian families through social media, they authors use autoethnographic reflection alongside fieldnotes and e-mail communication, and interactive interviews with each other, to represent the ways of living through and living with entrances and exits. Some of the exits easiest to leave personally were the hardest to give up professionally. Among their exits the authors focus on what shattered all preparation and expectation, their privileges that allowed them to leave Riverhill as a place once lived, and their thoughts of the children, now young adults, who never leave them at all.
While confessional tales are a common feature of the research process, stories of exiting the field remain scarce. This chapter is a reflection on the author’s experiences of leaving a post-industrial town after a long period of study. First, it troubles the popular narrative of ‘leaving’ as a voluntary and deliberate decision. The author’s abrupt departure from the research site prompted questions and anxieties about researcher responsibilities and commitments. Second, it highlights the affective nature of leaving the field and sketches out the interpersonal intensity of the relationship between both the researcher and the participants. Third, it reflects upon the author’s trepidation about writing once he had left the site, both in terms of doing justice to participants’ lives and not further stigmatising a maligned community. By sketching out not the reasons for leaving the field, but what concerns emerged because of his departure, the author argues that researchers must treat disengagement as a serious matter – pragmatically and analytically – which rarely leaves them unaffected.
Opening with Toni Morrison’s explanation of how racialised systems and institutions recycle themselves, this chapter discloses the underbelly of White Mindfulness. It expands on the social forces that shape the Mindfulness Industry and explains how, given its disengagement with these deep societal dynamics, it comes to slot seamlessly into the US and UK. An insistence that all practitioners share a common humanity disguises an infusion in postracialism, neoliberalism, and whiteness that keep People of the Global Majority socio-politically and economically marginalised. This unquestioning of dominant narratives and norms partly explains White Mindfulness’ success and may account for an intransigence around change. Discussion of attempts at diversity and inclusion reveal tactics like spiritual bypassing that entirely evade transformation and reinforce the status quo. More importantly, social normativity exposes the invisibilisation of whiteness and postracial neoliberalism to those captaining the White Mindfulness ship. Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s On Being Included, diversity is addressed from all angles, most especially its co-option in making institutions believe they are allies of anti-discrimination. Ahmed’s work helps address the question ‘inclusion into what?’ by showing how easily diversity work becomes non-performative. Still, entering White Mindfulness spaces, while remaining tethered to the margins, presents prospects for subversion. In this context, Lorde’s master’s tools point to the requirements for real transformation and question whether diversity is a soft option compared to decolonisation.
The powerful poem ‘Justice’ by Danai Mupotsa recognises that liberation is seldom freely given and is worth nurturing and protecting. It encourages a view of decoloniality that is possible. Acknowledging that White Mindfulness serves certain audiences and neglects others, the conclusion’s textured notion of social norms as the very air we breathe remembers People of the Global Majority. To remain relevant today and to foster responsive transformation and innovation, incentives to change are now required of organisations, institutions, and networks of White Mindfulness, rather than individuals. With a nod to those projects engaged in shifting the needle on radical change, the conclusion asks us to name our own sense of power and justice and to relate this to the world of Western mindfulness. It paves a path that allows White Mindfulness to fully engage with a fast-changing world forged by many initiatives unrelated to and independent of it. Lorde’s master’s tools concept is read here as a guide to widening the solution space and move beyond binaries. Changing the narrative, mechanisms, and power dynamics – the master’s tools – through which White Mindfulness is reproduced is necessary for change. This book extends the invitation to White Mindfulness to turn towards the sea change, respond to calls of justice, transform radically, and become part of the solution space.
Audit cultures engulf most educational enterprises and programmes. They stimulate regulatory frameworks to which uncritical educationalists conform. White Mindfulness teacher training programmes embrace audit culture and use competency-based education in efforts to standardise training. Further requirements for attaining teaching status, including regular retreat attendance at predominantly White institutions, regulates the Mindfulness Industry. These approaches frame the education, assimilation, and domestication of mindfulness teachers who, when they conform, become part of the systemic reinforcement of normative values. This chapter reviews the Mindfulness-Based Interventions: Teaching Assessment Criteria (MBI:TAC or TAC), a primary instrument of White Mindfulness used to measure teacher competency. The TAC fits mindfulness into a corporatised education and training system. This critical appraisal builds on the inquiry into White Mindfulness’ embodiment of whiteness, now seen in its pedagogical architecture. In contrast to a conformist, corporatist frame presented by new public management, this chapter launches a challenging inquiry into the possibility of combining audit and social justice aspirations. It draws on a South African example concerned with transformation of the education system post-apartheid. This reveals possibilities that return to questions of incentive, purpose, and desire as well as solidarity and allyship. Is White Mindfulness sufficiently inspired to address issues of social justice?
Learning to identify emotion and discern it from sensation are key components of mindfulness training. Invariably, this knowledge is underdeveloped in the US and UK due to the predominance of a framework that emphasises the intellect and rationality over and above emotion. Building on the divergent ideas of temporality discussed in Chapter 8, this chapter troubles White Mindfulness’ portrayal of emotionality. Starting with Andrea Jain’s work on neoliberal spirituality that creates divisions and nationalisms, this chapter draws on Sara Ahmed’s Cultural Politics of Emotion. Ahmed explains that the classification of knowledges through which emotion is understood in dominant Western discourses assumes either a sociological or a psychological lens. Emotions are seen to reside either in society or in the individual, generating an outside-in or an inside-out view. Instead, we come to understand that emotional objects circulate to create borders and boundaries, generating an impression of discrete bodies and formations. This thesis fosters an understanding of how dominant emotional artefacts and social norms circulate to create nationalisms, divisions, and supremacy. Through this lens the chapter considers how White Mindfulness interprets Buddhist teachings on suffering and flattens difference to render emotional effects similar. Questioning depoliticised notions of pleasant and unpleasant, the chapter also draws on Franz Fanon’s depiction of a doctor who administers care to a patient. Their relationship, viewed through the lens of the inequivalences in how emotional objects shape experience, is used as a metaphor for the White Mindfulness classroom.
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.
White Mindfulness is a new concept that captures the various social forces shaping ‘secular’ mindfulness in the West. Using an analogy of a cruise ship to depict a substantial industry with a large engine, crew, and passenger list, the introduction shines a light on dominant social norms and narratives that compose the murky waters the ship sails. It considers how systemic whiteness comes about and what its implications are for those who are racialised as well as those who aren’t. The positionality of the author as a Black feminist is set out to explain their orientation as an outsider-within White Mindfulness spaces. But given that race is a construct, the introduction also considers how to discuss race as central to this work without recentring whiteness. It identifies race as but one characteristic that intersects with others to perpetuate discrimination, vulnerabilities, and marginalisation. To navigate this terrain, the term People of the Global Majority is preferred as a descriptor that does not collapse ethnic difference, moves away from White as a starting place, and allows people to self-identify. The three parts of this book weave together the setting that shapes White Mindfulness, the engine that keeps it running, and the initiatives that disrupt it. A description of the 10 chapters explains how frameworks are established in the first part of the book to pave the way for discussions of change in the second. Audre Lorde’s ‘master’s tools’ is introduced to guide thinking about the possibilities and practicalities of change.
People of the Global Majority’s descriptions of White Mindfulness spaces often include discomfort, not belonging, and feeling unsafe. These accounts capture exclusions rooted in acts of Othering which have long-established origins in colony and empire. This chapter explores how these roots endure and present in societies premised on systemic racism and show how they persist in White Mindfulness institutions. Edward Said’s seminal Orientalism frames an understanding of Othering that occurs as much through colonial violences and wars as through cultural domination and appropriation. His concept of latent Orientalism, critiqued as much by other postcolonial scholars as by conservative authorities, frames a discussion of the layering of exclusions that occur within White Mindfulness. Homi Bhabha’s concept of subversion invites consideration of disruptive acts within Orientalist settings and the mindfulness world. Latent Orientalism describes the colonial gaze which Toni Morrison, referencing writing, explains through the White gaze and which bell hooks, drawing on film, defies with her concept of the oppositional gaze. This discussion centres the dominant norms and narratives that shape the world. Their predominance and invisibilisation form the crux of interrogation in this book. They undergird the master’s tools acting as the sea within which societies form and swim. Insights gained in this chapter explain how ‘good intention’ can incur wrongful action.