Ethics in action: Multi-sited engaged ethnography on valuation work in contemplative science

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisInternal

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In recent years, the potential of mindfulness meditation to alleviate modern ailments such as stress has been studied with neuroscientific, psychological and clinical approaches. While proponents of mindfulness research present this kind of research as benevolent and capable of remedying global crises, opponents find it ethically dubious. Some social scholars and Buddhist practitioners worry that a scientific framing of meditation makes it agreeable to use for unethical ends, for instance as a productivity booster in business corporations. Instead of reasoning in the abstract about these potential normative effects, this dissertation explores the ethics of meditation research by studying how values emerge in practice. It combines multi-sited ethnography (research on ethnicity at different geographical locations) with interdisciplinary collaboration to study practices of valuation in the laboratory, at scientific meetings and conferences. The analysis reveals that mindfulness research does not automatically have the normative effects, which proponents and opponents anticipate. Scientists mobilize different strategies and repertoires to make seemingly incompatible values co-exist in practice. They take responsibility for the ways in which their research influences society and culture. Opening up ‘reflexive spaces’ – where value conflicts are made available for reconsideration – can facilitate the socio-ethical governance of science.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Maastricht University
  • Mody, Cyrus, Supervisor
  • Borck, Cornelius, Co-Supervisor, External person
  • Meacham, Darian, Co-Supervisor
Award date11 Oct 2022
Place of PublicationMaastricht
Print ISBNs9789464239294
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • empirical ethics
  • interdisciplinary collaboration
  • reflexive science governance
  • meditation research

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