Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226361871 Published September 2019
Cloth $82.50 ISBN: 9780226639383 Published September 2019
E-book $10.00 to $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226639413 Published September 2019 Also Available From


Vipassana Meditation and the Embodiment of the Self

Michal Pagis


Michal Pagis

240 pages | 2 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2019
Paper $27.50 ISBN: 9780226361871 Published September 2019
Cloth $82.50 ISBN: 9780226639383 Published September 2019
E-book $10.00 to $27.50 About E-books ISBN: 9780226639413 Published September 2019
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. Michal Pagis’s Inward focuses on one increasingly popular channel for the introverted gaze: vipassana meditation, which has spread from Burma to more than forty countries and counting. Lacing her account with vivid anecdotes and personal stories, Pagis turns our attention not only to the practice of vipassana but to the communities that have sprung up around it. Inward is also a social history of the westward diffusion of Eastern religious practices spurred on by the lingering effects of the British colonial presence in India. At the same time Pagis asks knotty questions about what happens when we continually turn inward, as she investigates the complex relations between physical selves, emotional selves, and our larger social worlds. Her book sheds new light on evergreen topics such as globalization, social psychology, and the place of the human body in the enduring process of self-awareness.
Note on Terminology

1          Turning Inward
2          The Popularization of Meditation
3          Collective Solitude
4          Meditation in Daily Life
5          Negotiating Intimate Social Relations
6          Becoming a Meditator: Life Course Orientations
7          Bodies, Selves, and the Social World

Methodological Appendix: Ethnography of Experience
Review Quotes
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.”
American Journal of Sociology
Pagis’s book is a tour de force for those interested in social constructivist theories of self-development; sociologists of religion, spirituality, and Buddhism; and meditators. The book would provide excellent contributions to sociology courses on these topics. The book is not only carefully constructed, painstakingly grounded in various historical and sociological literatures, but written in an interesting and accessible manner, which students either at the undergraduate or graduate level would enjoy.

ASA Theory Section: The Theory Book Prize
Honorable Mention

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