Mindfulness: A cultural analysis of the translation and traveling of an esoteric concept from the East to the organizational realm in the West, specifically in Bogotá, Colombia.

University essay from Lunds universitet/Avdelningen för etnologi

Abstract: This thesis analyzes how mindfulness is translated into a business concept for the organizational realm in Bogotá, Colombia. How does an originally “mystic”, eastern esoteric concept like mindfulness manage to travel into and adapt to a material Western setting, specifically Bogotá? Previous research on mindfulness in businesses often analyzes it as an accepted tool for executives and organizations, but little research has focused on how mindfulness has actually ended up there, having been tailored by mindfulness companies to meet organizational interests. This thesis explores the identity-making process of seven mindfulness companies and their owners using cultural analysis and ethnographical methods. In focus are the tacit and explicit rules engaged in creating these mindfulness companies, their marketing strategies, their gender notions and the meanings they ascribe to the mindfulness experience. Similarly, the voice of Bogotá’s organizational realm is examined in order to comprehend their take and appreciations on mindfulness. The analysis is guided by Mary Douglas definition on cleanliness and pollution, Erving Goffman’s theatrical perspective on social interactions, Victor Turner’s delineation of liminality and Judith Butler definition of gender. The investigation indicates that shaping mindfulness for business purposes is a personal and intimate process for the mindfulness practitioners operating as business owners. Further, the work reveals that, due to the gender stereotypes embedded in Bogotá’s organizational realm, the mindfulness companies translate and market mindfulness as a prestigious enactment of womanness. The thesis findings can be used as a guide as they show how the successful travelling process and translation of mindfulness into a business concept for the organizational realm requires being aware of the specific local and geographic constructions of mindfulness including their national, gendered and sociocultural characteristics. Further, it reveals the significance of the individual perspectives on business and mindfulness that the women running the mindfulness companies adhere to.

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