Inward: Vipassana Meditation and the Embodiment of the Self.
University of Chicago Press
Western society has never been more interested in interiority. Indeed, it seems more and more people are deliberately looking inward—toward the mind, the body, or both. Inward focuses on one increasingly popular channel for the introverted gaze: vipassana meditation, a Buddhist meditation of mindfulness that was revitalized and adapted for a secular audience. The practice of vipassana and the microsociological world that surrounds it form the core of this book, yet the reader will be taken far beyond vipassana itself. Through examining the phenomenological reality of vipassana practitioners, their silent interactions in meditation centers, their heightened sensitivity to the body, and their attempts to transform themselves and their social lives by monitoring bodily sensations, Inward supplies a novel sociological framework for the study of the place of embodied awareness in processes of self-making. At the close of this rich ethnographic account, the reader will see how, through communities, routines and rituals, individuals turn their attention inward without stepping out of society and negotiate the tensions engendered by contemporary social life.
Courtney Bender, Columbia University
“Pagis deftly draws readers into the world of contemporary vipasanna meditation, and in so doing shows us how fruitful—and important—sociological attention to the varied social practices that retool the relations of self and other, private and public, visible and invisible, can be. Inward is a beautifully rendered ethnography with important implications for the study of the body and self-making.”
Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania
“This striking ethnography sticks in one’s mind: rooms full of silent meditators coordinating their body rhythms on a tacit channel, observing sensations over every inch of their bodies, and washing away pains not by seeking their causes but by detached attention. Pagis depicts meditation in a secular age, not as religion but as bodies among bodies giving each other space to repair the inroads of too much social self.”
Andreas Glaeser, University of Chicago
“Pagis’ beautifully written, brilliantly argued ethnography of meditation makes three major contributions: it shows how some of our most private experiences are socially enabled; it demonstrates how our selves are not only linguistically but sensuously mediated; and it reveals how attention is not merely a faculty but a practice. All three have profound consequences for understanding the sociality of human beings.