Liberation from inside out: Embodying abolition through Buddhism-inspired somatic mindfulness

Authors: Sapana Doshi*, University of Arizona, Tucson
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Gender
Keywords: abolition, mind-body practices, social justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Plaza Court 2, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Buddhist-derived theories and mind-body practices—including corporeal awareness-based meditation, martial arts, conscious dance and contemplative reflection—are increasingly being adopted by anti-racist, social justice groups. Connecting larger systems of white supremacy and intersectional oppressions with both internalized subjugation among racialized groups as well as “numbness” towards or denial of everyday racism associated with privilege, these efforts are aimed releasing barriers to implementing transformational change making. Such practices experiment in new anti-racist, feminist, and anti-capitalist ontologies that blur binaries of the secular and religious, self and society, and theory and practice that practitioner believe may fundamentally shape transformational consciousness necessary for social liberation. This paper draws on ethnographic interviews and participant observation in gatherings of multi-racial, majority people of color groups of activists and social change agents engaging in such practices based in various parts of the United States. Integrating abolitionist theory, affect and trauma studies and radical Buddhist and black prophetic thought, it explores how internally oriented mind-body practices has been mobilized to support social abolitionist struggle. Specifically, it analyzes 1) the connections between abolitionist notions of fugitivity and anti-capitalist and anti-racist ontologies of liberation nurtured through mind-body practices, 2) how personal bodily discomfort and trauma linked to racial capitalism may be transformed through such practices in social movement contexts and 3) how somatic mindfulness “scales up” and supports abolitionist social change.

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