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Producing intersubjectivity in silence: An ethnographic study of meditation practice

Michal Pagis
Ethnography
Vol. 11, No. 2 (June 2010), pp. 309-328
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24048065
Page Count: 20
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Producing intersubjectivity in silence: An ethnographic study of meditation practice
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Abstract

The 'problem of other minds' is central to sociological theory and of immediate importance to contemporary research on subjectivity and interiority. How do we cultivate and maintain an intersubjective space during silent, private, experiences? Drawing on Alfred Schutz's phenomenology, this study challenges the common view which regards silence as an obstacle to social relations. The data consist of two years of participant observation of vipassana meditation practices in Israel and the United States. Vipassana meditation is conducted in complete silence, discouraging group sharing of meditation experiences, thus offering an extreme case of silence and privacy. The findings illustrate how, despite the absence of direct verbal communication, the practice of meditation still holds important intersubjective dimensions. I suggest that covert mechanisms of silent intersubjectivity play an important role in everyday social life and require further ethnographic attention.

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