Contemplative practices and social change

The recent social justice movements have strongly resonated with contemplative scholars and practitioners, leading to important publications on topics such as Buddhism and racial justice (Williams, Owens, Jasmine, 2016; Magee, 2019; Han, 2021), genderqueer justice (Ballard, 2021), and the ecological crisis (Loy, 2019). Within the field of contemplative studies, there has been a growing debate about whether mindfulness practices should explicitly or implicitly address issues of values, and whether such practices inherently promote prosocial qualities. Some scholars have also questioned whether minimalist versions of mindfulness may simply serve to reinforce the status quo rather than challenging it.

The Contemplative Practices and Social Change research network is an interdisciplinary initiative that seeks to explore a range of questions related to social change and contemplative practices. For instance, how do individuals and communities use contemplative practices to seek social change? What are the perceived benefits and values of using contemplative practices to address issues related to racial, genderqueer, the environment, and economic inequality? And conversely, what are the limitations of incorporating contemplative practices into these areas of social change? How do ongoing debates about social justice impact teachers and practitioners? Finally, how could contemplative practices be harnessed to benefit communities and individuals seeking social change?

University of Melbourne contributors:

  • Associate Professor Ana Dragojlovic, Insight Fellow, Contemplative Studies Centre
  • Dr Julieta Galante, Deputy Director, Contemplative Studies Centre
  • Dr Cullan Joyce, Insight Fellow, Contemplative Studies Centre
  • Associate Professor Nicholas van Dam, Inaugural Director, Contemplative Studies Centre