University of Wisconsin–Madison

Julia Cassaniti

January 27, 2017
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
206 Ingraham Hall

“Remembering the Present:
Mentality and Mental Health in Theravāda Southeast Asia”

Julia Cassaniti
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Washington State University

This talk will discuss an ethnographically based research project on the mindfulness practices of monks, psychiatrists, and lay Buddhists that I recently carried out in the Theravāda countries of Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka. Drawing from data collected from over 600 participants I map out some of the ways that mindfulness, as understood through its Pali-language root sati, is associated in Southeast Asia to psychological processes in ways that are different from how they are usually understood in other cultural contexts. I attend especially to what I have called the TAPES of mindfulness: Temporality, Affect, Power, Ethics, and Selfhood, and demonstrate how each suggests new perspectives for thinking about the complicated relationship between culture and mind. I begin with a case study of a man named Sen staying at a psychiatric hospital in Chiang Mai, and through an examination of the meanings that he and his family and friends make of his problems show some of the connections that local ideas about the mind have to the wider circulation of Buddhism across Asia and around the world.