The Presents of the Present: Mindfulness, Time and Structures of Feeling

Coleman, Rebecca. 2022. The Presents of the Present: Mindfulness, Time and Structures of Feeling. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 23(1), pp. 131-148. ISSN 1600-910X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Mindfulness, as the cultivation of ways to become attentive to the present moment, has grown exponentially in some areas of the global north over the past decade or so. As such, it has generated much important debate about its efficacy and the politics it produces, especially in terms of whether and how mindfulness is a response to, or effect of, neoliberalism. Drawing on Berlant’s argument that affects are structured and collective but not necessarily determinative of how people feel and act in relation to them, I explore the affective relations between mindfulness and contemporary (neo)liberal culture as a series of relays, modulations, or recalibrations. More specifically, I approach these affective relations through focusing on temporality. I argue that the practice of mindfulness as a deliberate and conscious focus on the present is central to how its value is imagined by those who promote it and experienced by those who practice it. Drawing on interviews with mindfulness practitioners, analysis of mindfulness books, online forums and communities, I centre the significance of the present to an understanding of the recent proliferation of mindfulness. I draw out the affectivity of mindfulness presents and think these ‘mindfulness presents’ alongside Berlant’s identification of the significance of the present to contemporary liberal-capitalism. Situating my argument within broader work that sees time, temporality and affect as central means through which contemporary capitalism is organised and hence should be conceived, I examine how mindfulness is perhaps one way in which contemporary liberal-capitalism is felt and lived with.

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This work was supported by Leverhulme Trust: [Grant Number RF-2017-632\8].


Mindfulness; time; temporality; affect; structures of feeling; neoliberalism; atmospheres

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11 August 2020Accepted
11 September 2020Published Online

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Date Deposited:

20 Aug 2020 14:05

Last Modified:

28 Apr 2022 04:04

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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