Posthuman Buddhism

Selfhood & BodyPosted by Les Roberts 26 Mar, 2018 15:36:29

The manuscript for Spatial Anthropology: Excursions in Liminal Space is now well into the production stage. The book is due to be published by Rowman & Littlefield in June 2018.

In the meantime, I have started work on the next monograph, a provisional outline of which is as follows:

Posthuman Buddhism is a new book project currently in development. Ideas for the monograph have their root in a number of different theoretical domains but share common ground insofar as they variously confront questions of selfhood and embodiment in the digital age. The book approaches these questions by framing its discussion around philosophical and anthropological perspectives that span two very different fields of study. Firstly, addressing debates in communication studies that explore phenomenological and non-media-centric approaches to digital media practices, Posthuman Buddhism provides insights into the embodied materialities of posthuman media cultures, where digital communications serve as much an ontological as instrumental function (provoking the question ‘what does it mean to be posthuman in the digital media age?’). Secondly, grappling with some of the spatial and temporal implications of posthuman media materialities, Posthuman Buddhism draws on ideas that speak to, and are illuminated by, strands of Buddhist thought and practice (provoking the question ‘what does it mean to be “mindful” in the digital media age?’).

The motivation for writing the book stems from a desire to explore more fully a number of interrelated themes, some of which have started to feed into content covered on a course I teach at the University of Liverpool called Media, Self and Society (which, from 2018-19, will be re-named Posthuman Culture and Society and co-taught with my colleague David Hill). The introductory lecture on the course was written in the days following the death of David Bowie in January 2016. Responding to that event, the lecture sought to examine concepts of the ‘postmodern self’ by reflecting, in part, on the shape-shifting and fluid identities that were a hallmark of Bowie’s cultural persona. It did so by bringing the idea of creative changefulness, exemplified by Bowie, into dialogue with Buddhist notions of impermanence and non-self (and by briefly touching on Bowie’s own long-standing flirtation with Buddhism). Posthuman Buddhism builds on these introductory reflections on culture, media and the postmodern self to consider broader issues that draw together posthuman media materialities and Buddhist praxis. These include the use of digital devices and mindfulness apps as tools to aid meditation practice; the rhythmanalytical and experiential affects of ‘slow media’ on embodied understandings of time; and the production and consumption of mediated ‘spaciousness’ and its impacts on everyday phenomenologies of the self.

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