Sociology

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Inclusion through a neoliberal, postracial lens
Cathy-Mae Karelse

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.

in Disrupting White Mindfulness
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Embodied liberation and worldmaking
Cathy-Mae Karelse

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.

in Disrupting White Mindfulness
Metrics, tools, and neoliberal skills
Cathy-Mae Karelse

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?

in Disrupting White Mindfulness
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The politics of pain and emotion
Cathy-Mae Karelse

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.

in Disrupting White Mindfulness
Race and racism in the wellbeing industry

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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Encountering the world of White Mindfulness
Cathy-Mae Karelse

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.

in Disrupting White Mindfulness
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The roots of colonisation and Orientalism
Cathy-Mae Karelse

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.

in Disrupting White Mindfulness
Creating futures of belonging
Cathy-Mae Karelse

In a world in turmoil in which social forces of racial capitalism engulf efforts towards change, bold measures are required for meaningful transformation. Purposeful change necessitates radical social transformation, rather than cosmetic reforms, to forge futures of belonging in the world of Western mindfulness. Moving beyond one-size-fits-all models, this chapter draws together many of the strands previously discussed and focuses more closely on what is to be done to change White Mindfulness. This discussion is not about blueprints but instead captures the essence of initiatives that model change, highlighting the rudimentary values and principles that distinguish them from dominant norms. Shining a light on decolonising actions outside the White Mindfulness space, it considers mindfulness in relation to a pro-justice society. Emphasis on inner, outer, and interstitial change addresses the social tissues that embed Othering as much in human interactions as in social structures that fortify discrimination. This chapter poses liberatory questions that are important for any inquiry into dynamic, meaningful change. The inquiry, itself part of a process of decolonisation, asks about decision-making and power, what is envisioned and by whom, and how change can be made. Embodied liberation and leadership are pivotal to the decolonise agenda, which encourages collaboration with key parties at the design phase of innovations to redress skewed patterns of power. By the same token, innovative projects that draw on the vast social capital of People of the Global Majority demonstrate the power of collaborative transformation.

in Disrupting White Mindfulness
Pedagogies of limitation
Cathy-Mae Karelse

Education and training are foundational to every sector. The Mindfulness Industry is no different. This chapter examines the uncritical nature of White Mindfulness’ pedagogy framed by the needs of the corporatist state. An insistence on standardisation to produce a one-size-fits-all blueprint in effect distances White Mindfulness from People of the Global Majority. The race-gender profile of White Mindfulness educators is shown to increase the unlikelihood of their engagement in critical pedagogies that embrace difference. Over-emphasis on a research-education tension detracts from Teacher Training Programmes (TTPs) insufficiently concerned with issues of justice and social change. A critical appraisal of TTPs underscores their immersion in invisibilised social norms that generate exclusions. At the same time, they make claims of expertise, universality, and neutrality. Although many of the decision-makers of White Mindfulness TTPs are located in higher education institutions, there is a failure to engage critical thinking in mindfulness’ current purpose and how it might foster social change. Added to this, audit culture is shown to introduce a type of metrification that further shuts down pro-justice concerns and reinforces the status quo. An inquiry into what a critical pedagogy might consider expands the possibilities of engaging difference and stepping outside the comfort zone of whiteness.

in Disrupting White Mindfulness
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Patterns in Western mindfulness organisations
Cathy-Mae Karelse

Whiteness is not only about race; it encapsulates a multifaceted politics that maintains White supremacy, favouring some lives more than others. The overarching power whiteness bears on White Mindfulness is evidenced in its demographic staffing profiles, drawn from data gathered from three organisations between 2015 and 2018. A case is made that a predominance of White male decision-makers, distant from the imperatives of change, blunts efforts to diversify programmes or engage with marginalised communities. Attempts to widen participation beyond White middle-class audiences suffer from a lack of understanding and direction at decision-making level. This chapter explores the endorsement of White Mindfulness through gateways of science, the psy-disciplines, and a one-size-fits-all model. Gaining traction through the master’s gateways detracts from White Mindfulness’ racialised, gendered organisations and from the racialised nature of these mechanisms themselves. But this chapter also asks questions about agency and freedom to move beyond a rigid neo-colonial/oppressed binary. bell hooks and Stuart Hall offer understandings of ‘becoming’ that complicate simplistic notions of appropriation. Referring to people and entities as ‘constantly becoming’, they emphasise the importance of referencing context, the origins of ideas, respect for knowledges, and engagement with and restoration of power to bearers of traditions as ways of engaging cultures that we are not born into. Agency exercised outside the confines of whiteness demonstrates different ways of working that upend power-over and emphasise appreciation of contributions across difference. This marks a different way of ‘becoming’ in worlds dominated by whiteness.

in Disrupting White Mindfulness