Dr Masoumeh (Sara) Rahmani, was awarded a £59,535 research grant by the University of Kent’s Understanding Unbelief project to undertake postdoctoral research at Coventry University, UK.
Her proposed research will carry out a cross-cultural investigation of the nature of unbelief among practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation to identify whether it functions as an equivalent of religion for unbelievers.
Sara’s postdoctoral research builds on her recently completed PhD thesis, “Drifting Through Samsara: Tacit conversion and disengagement in Goenka’s Vipassana movement in New Zealand,” which is included on the Division of Humanities’ list of exceptional theses.
Goenka’s Vipassana movement is famous for its consistent refusal to identify its practice as religious, even though the teachings and practices are unequivocally derived from Buddhism. Sara’s PhD explores how increased socialisation into this movement and adoption of its language paradoxically creates non-religious identities. Her ethnographic research further examined the influence of biographical, institutional, and sociocultural structures that support the Vipassana practitioners’ non-religious positions.