|dc.description.abstract||The aim of this dissertation is to reflect on technologies of the self, a term
coined by Michel Foucault to study western practices of self-formation.
Influenced by his work on subjectivity and by Science and Technology Studies
(STS), I explore two forms of meditation – Vipassana meditation in the tradition
of S. N. Goenka and Thich Nhat Hanh’s practices of mindfulness – in order to
analyze the entanglements between technologies, associations and subjectivity.
Two research questions guided this study. First, how do Vipassana and
Zen assemblages bring forth subjective transformations? Second, what are the
politics of meditation practice, considering that Vipassana and Zen perform
particular paradigms of subjectivity and aim at transforming the “social”?
In order to address these questions, I relied on qualitative research
methods, developing a multifaceted methodology that included participant
observation at four meditation retreats, semi-structured interviews with
meditators, the analysis of relevant literature and my own personal experiences
as a beginner.
I argue that the mechanisms of subjectification employed by meditation
rely on two main devices: the transformation of habitual webs of associations,
including couplings between selves, other humans, nonhumans and spaces and
the installation of new automatisms. Vipassana and Zen technologies invite
subjects to become aware of particular automatisms – regular ways of eating,
sitting, walking and breathing - and to direct their attention towards them in
novel ways, installing specific ways of managing their selves (stopping and
breathing whenever they hear the sounds of bells; developing an attitude of
equanimity when they are looking for sensations in their bodies).
Vipassana and Zen are mediators that generate new experiences and
ways of being informed by meditation, as well as a number of social
applications that rely on the paradigmatic changes enacted by these practices.
Informed by the dualism between modern and nonmodern, I argue that Zen and
Vipassana can be understood as technologies of the nonmodern self (Pickering,
2010), suspending the dualism between body and mind, self and others,
humans and nonhumans, contributing towards the establishment of nondual
paradigms of selfhood and innovative forms of social organization that include
new ways of performing human reformation, social action and humanenvironment
The theoretical contributions of this dissertation are threefold. First, I
want to extend current STS scholarly work on the self. Second, I want to
contribute towards a post-humanist understanding of meditation assemblages.
Finally, I am informed by Michel Foucault’s insights on technologies of the self
to study meditation, but instead of focusing on the history or genealogy of the
western self, I analyze a number of devices of subjectification mobilized to
operate subjective changes and to transform the social.||en_GB