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Investigation of the commodification and cultural appropriation of Buddhist mindfulness meditation with respect to its social value and the implications for practice.

Project Description

Project reference number: GSBS-2019-127

Mindfulness belongs to the meditation tradition originating in ancient Buddhist teachings, consisting of practices purporting to ease suffering (Bodhi, 2011). Academic research of mindfulness meditation is underpinned by various work. Sociological theories of consumption, including those of Marx, Durkheim and Weber, can provide a framework as can Bourdieu’s discussions of power in society (1994) (Warde, 1990; 2015). Such work may offer evidence of positive outcomes for mindfulness meditation as a complementary medical therapy (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). Indeed, a surge of interest in mindfulness meditation academically and culturally (Van Dam et al, 2018) has in turn fuelled a multiplicity of meanings and related practices. The result is a lack of a clear operational definition, with some arguing that cultural appropriation has failed to reflect mindfulness meditation origins and complexity (Chiesa, 2012, Williams & Kabat-Zinn, 2012).

Furthermore, commodification has arguably created a disconnect with Buddhist meaning, integrity, ethical and social values (Hyland, 2017). Many corporations now recognise mindfulness meditation as a tool for improving employee performance (Purser & Milillo, 2015) and also a mechanism for selling products (Wilson, 2016). Critics suggest it has become a tool of neoliberal ‘responsibilization’ (Shamir, 2008), its meaning decontextualized into a self-help technique (Purser & Loy, 2013).

This project aims to investigate individuals’ perception and experiences of the cultural appropriation and commodification of mindfulness meditation and its associated social value. This in-depth qualitative study will employ a qualitative approach. It is expected that data collection will include interviews, ethnographic and archival research.

Findings will address how the commodification and cultural appropriation of mindfulness meditation may inform its social value. This should in turn provide a depth of understanding of the purpose and mechanism of current practice, experience and meaning, whilst potentially enabling accurate practice classification.

Supervisor Research Profiles

Director of Studies: Dr M.A. Houston
GCU Research Online URL:

2nd Supervisor: Dr Grace Poulter
GCU Research Online URL:

This project is available as a 3 years full-time PhD study programme with expected start date of 1 October 2019

Candidates are encouraged to contact the research supervisors for the project before applying.

To apply for this project, use the following link to access the online application form, as well as further information on how to apply:

Applicants shortlisted for the PhD project will be contacted for an interview within four weeks from the closing date.

Please send any other enquires regarding your application to:

Funding Notes

Exceptional candidates will be put forward for the scholarship competition. The Scholarship packages available include fully funded studentships and fees only scholarships. The fully funded studentships are worth £19,300 per year for 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress. They cover payment of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate and an annual stipend of £14,800.

For further details on funding see View Website

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