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Spiritual economy: resources, labor, and exchange in Glastonbury and Sedona

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Current data indicates that a growing number of individuals in the English-speaking world are identifying as “spiritual, but not religious” (SBNR). Using ethnographic data collected at two important sites of

Current data indicates that a growing number of individuals in the English-speaking world are identifying as “spiritual, but not religious” (SBNR). Using ethnographic data collected at two important sites of spiritual pilgrimage and tourism—Glastonbury, England and Sedona, Arizona—this project argues that seekers at these places produce spirituality as much as they consume it. Using the lens of economy, this project examines how seekers conceptualize the (super-) natural resources at these sites, the laborious practices they perform to transform these resources, and the valuation and exchange of the resultant products. In so doing, the project complicates prevailing notions, both among scholars and the public, that contemporary unaffiliated spirituality is predominantly an individualistic consumer process.

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  • 2018

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Constructing religious modernities: hybridity, reinterpretation, and adaptation in Thailand's international meditation centers

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This dissertation project addresses one of the most critical problems in the study of religion: how new formations of religion are constructed and constituted. My work builds on the recent

This dissertation project addresses one of the most critical problems in the study of religion: how new formations of religion are constructed and constituted. My work builds on the recent revisions of the secularization theory, which demonstrates the alternative and hybrid ways people seek out religion in modernity. To this end, my project examines the emerging popularity and phenomenon of international meditation centers in Thailand, focusing on encounters between international meditation center teachers and their international students. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews at these sites throughout Thailand, my project explores the social processes of religious change and adaptation, and the construction of religious meaning. I detail the historical conditions that led to the formation of persisting ideas of Buddhism by tracing the continuities between Orientalist interpretations and modern-day spiritual seekers. My work contributes to a greater understanding of the most recent articulation of this engagement and interaction between Buddhism and the international community and adds to the burgeoning scholarship that reconsiders the relationship between religion and modernity. I investigate this relationship in regard to international meditation centers in Thailand through three angles: promotional materials concerning meditation in Thailand, experiences of international meditators, and teachings of international meditation center teachers. I contextualize this ethnographic analysis with an evaluation of the relationship of Buddhism to discourses of modernity and Orientalism as well as a historical inquiry into the rise of lay meditation in Thailand. Throughout I argue that international meditators' engagement with meditation in Thai temples constitutes a hybrid religiosity where the decontextualized practice of meditation is mixed with both non-religious and other religious beliefs and practices. Social discourses and practices involving meditation, even in a Buddhist country, demonstrate the deconstruction of traditional religiosity in modernity and the rise of hybrid religiosity. Through the decontextualization of meditation and the discourse of the practice having no religious boundaries, meditation becomes mixed with tourism, therapy, healing, as well as other religious and secular practices. This research contributes to studies of Theravada Buddhism as well as modern, global religions and the contemporary intersection between religion and tourism.

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  • 2012