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Department of Social Anthropology


Dr Joanna Cook: If mindfulness is the answer, what is the question?

In the UK, mindfulness is a political concern. An awareness practice originating in Buddhism, mindfulness is being interpreted as a positive intervention for societal problems as wide ranging as depressive relapse, criminal recidivism, children’s academic performance and worker burn out. Given the diversity of these challenges, it is striking that part of their solution is presented as unitary. In this paper, I consider changing understandings of mental health and human flourishing. Taking political interest in mindfulness as my ethnographic focus I examine the broader cultural problematisation of ‘attention’. I argue that cultivating a relationship with one’s own mind, learning awareness and attention practices in a peculiarly committed way, is increasingly being incorporated into understandings of mental health, the good life and governance. 

Thursday, 15 February, 2018 - 17:00 to 18:30
Event location: 
Edmund Leach Room Department of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge