The normal is pathological: semi-conscious brains, mindless habits, and the paradoxical science of mindfulness

Date
2022-12-19
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Source Title
BioSocieties
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1745-8560
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan Ltd.
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Pages
1 - 25
Language
English
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Abstract

The article investigates the recent attempts to create a medical technique and a scientific object of knowledge out of ‘mindfulness’, paying particular attention to the paradoxical implications of these attempts for biosocial theorizing. The author compares the scholarly and non-scholarly works of mindfulness therapists to understand how they introduce their practice to the medical/scientific community and their clients. This comparison reveals that ‘mindfulness’ is translated differently in these two realms, as a bio-neurological process in the former and an ethical practice in the latter. Mindfulness therapy is made possible by the linking together of these different translations, which results in a paradoxical relationship to modern medicine and biosocial disciplines. Whereas in most contemporary biosocial theories, ‘mindless’ (automated) processes are considered as being essential to the ‘normal’ functioning of both biologic and social life, in mindfulness therapy ‘mindlessness’ and socially induced habits are viewed as obstacles to one’s wellbeing. Thus, mindfulness therapy challenges some of the fundamental assumptions of biosocial sciences about ‘normality’, while seeking recognition in the world of those very sciences by adopting their methodology. Ultimately, this paradoxical attitude gives mindfulness therapy a capacity to both serve and resist the biopolitical interests underlying modern therapeutic culture.

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