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book spotlight: the mindful elite by jaime kucinskas

Jaime K book cover

It’s a real pleasure to write about the scholarship of Jaime Kucinskas. She’s one of those amazing A+ Indiana sociology graduate students and a good friend. So I was thrilled when she finished her doctoral degree and began teaching at Hamilton College. Her new book, The Mindful Elite, is really great contribution to social movement studies and the social scientific analysis of religion.

Her basic puzzle is this: Religious change is usually a very contentious process, but Buddhism and meditation in America appeared with relatively little struggle. Why? Based on field work at meditation organizations and interviews with leaders, she argues that Eastern meditative practices appeared in America as a result of a quiet mobilization among elites in academia and science.

The basic story is this. Meditative practices, associated with various non-Western traditions, have been in America for a while but it wasn’t until the 1960s that it was picked up by scientists, scholars, and business leaders. Then, they engaged in a sort of “stealth mobilization” where meditative practices were “laundered” through high status institutions, such as universities. They created an “elite circuit” of conferences, workshops, and institutes that were designed to develop a more palatable version of meditative practices for American audiences. Once they got some traction among elites, meditation could be talked about in the media and it could incorporated into daily organizational practices.

The story is more nuanced than my summary admits, and not every attempt at “back door” institutionalization worked, but it’s a good story that all social movement scholars should pay attention to. Recommended!!

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Written by fabiorojas

May 22, 2019 at 12:19 am

Posted in uncategorized

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  1. I just tried to share this post on my FB feed and FB blocked it. I am shocked.

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    Alison Kemper

    May 24, 2019 at 3:13 am


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