Ethnographic and neuroscience research addresses Buddhist cultural practices

I like to to read about anthropology, which I view as a high-end form of journalism.

In a previous number of posts, most recently this one, I’ve discussed an overview – a blurb, so to speak – about the career of Sherry B. Ortner that appears in Fifty Key Anthropologists (2011).

Framing of evidence

My basic view of things is that when we seek to make sense of things, it’s useful to look at the evidence – the more solid and corroborated the better – with regard to whatever aspect of reality is the object of investigation. It’s also useful to look at the frame of reference that is brought to bear when the evidence is presented.

Passage regarding Sherpas of Nepal from Fifty Key Anthropologists (2011)

The passage (p. 176) in Fifty Key Anthropologists about Ortner’s impressive life’s work that I turn to now reads:

  • In High Religion: A Cultural and Political History ef Sherpa Buddhism (1989), Ortner turned to history and practice theory, an approach based on the ‘logic’ of culture and placing politicized subject positions at the center of analysis to help resolve the struggle within anthro­pology over the relevance of the culture concept. In examining the founding of the first celibate Buddhist monasteries in Northeast Nepal, Ortner maintains a commitment to her roots in hermeneutic understandings of cultural schemata, but innovates by placing this schema within the structural constraints generated by the politics of inheritance and the moral economy among Sherpas. The founding of celibate monasteries has cultural origins in centuries’ old schemata which framed the realignment of social relations caused by opportu­nities for the accumulation of wealth outside traditional Sherpa fraternal inheritance and political intervention by the Nepalese state. The founding of monasteries provided avenues for the expression of fraternal rivalry through sponsorship of monasteries as well as oppor­tunities for small people to gain prestige by entering celibate monastic life. Continuing to emphasize the importance of practice, Ortner edited the volume Culture/Power/ History (1994) that featured some of the most prominent thinkers working on issues of practice in social theory.

[End of excerpt]

The overview regarding the Sherpas of Nepal is of interest and of value.

The Neuroscience of meditation: How it changes the brain, boosting focus and easing stress

An artice in the November 2014 Scientific American is entitled: “Mind of the meditator: Contemplative practices that extend back thousands of years show a multitude of benefits for both body and mind.”

You can access an excerpt from the article here.

I bought the newsstand version of the magazine so that I could read the article.

Ethnographic and neuroscience research

This post concerns two approaches to evidence.

1) One concerns the evidence available through ethnographic research as interpreted with the aid of an anthropological frame of reference.

2) The other concerns evidence available through neuroscience research as interpreted with the aid of a neuroscience frame of reference.

Each mode of research addresses similar topics, and each arrives at conclusions that are valid and of interest.

As well we can say:

1) Neuroscience based on neuroimaging can be characterized as a form of ethnographic field research.

2) Reporting on the results of such research can be characterized as a form of journalism.

3) Video recording of cliques as a component of ethnographic research, and as a genre of filmmaking, is akin to neuroimaging research focusing on brain functions.

Andy Warhol, sociologist

A Dec. 1, 2014 CBC Radio interview, about Andy Warhol and Ronald Reagan, positions Andy Warhol as an innovative sociologist (focusing on fame among other topics of interest), along with his roles as groundbreaking painter and photographer.

A Feb. 22, 2013 Phaidon article is entitled: “The fascinating story behind Andy Warhol’s soup cans.” The article notes:

  • With his Campbell’s Soup Cans installation at Ferus Gallery, the artist realised the possibility of creating works in series, and the visual effect of serial imagery. He continued making variations on his Soup Cans, stencilling multiple cans within a single canvas and so amplifying the effect of products stacked in a grocery store, an idea that he would later develop in the box sculptures. He also realised that the serial repetition of an image drained it of its meaning, an interesting phenomenon most poignantly presented in his Disasters, in which the constant exposure to their graphic displays of violence numbs the senses. And, perhaps the most significant outcome of this series was the artist’s push towards printing to achieve the mechanical appearance that he sought in his paintings.

[End of excerpt]

Do It Yourself (Seascape), 1962. Artist: Andy Warhol. Photograph: 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London


A Nov. 28, 2014 New York Times article is entitled: “With Art, Investing in Genius.”

An Oct. 28, 2015 CBC article is entitled: “Andy Warhol TIFF show explores artist’s obsession with stars, fame: Highlights include Warhol’s own memorabilia plus his videos, screen prints, photos.”

A Nov. 29, 2014 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Give to others – and save yourself?”

The article mentions two books: Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (2013) and Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (2013). The article also quotes an author whose books include The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make you Happy, But Does (2013).

A resource of interest is the study entitled: Buddhism Between Tibet and China (2009).

Also of value is a study entitled: Buddhist Warfare (2010), which I have highlighted in a previous post:

Buddhist Warfare (2010) highlights connections between Buddhisms and violence

A Sept. 30, 2015 New York Times editorial is entitled: “Slipping Backward in Nepal.”

A Dec. 19, 2015 Guardian article is entitled: On strike at 8,848 metres: “Sherpa and the story of an Everest revolution: Jennifer Peedom set out to make a documentary about the untold role the Sherpas play in helping wealthy western climbers conquer Mount Everest, but when an avalanche hit during her shoot, she ended up with an even bigger story.”

A Feb. 27, 2015 CBC The Current article is entitled: “Mt. Everest guide calls for better working conditions for Sherpas.”

A March 5, 2015 CBC The Current article is entitled: “Checking-In on Sherpas, immigration limbo, tax-free tampons & more.”

A caption for a photo at the latter link reads: “It has been nearly a year since 16 Sherpas were killed in a devastating avalanche on Mount Everest. And now, with a new climbing season on the horizon, many Sherpas say the risks they’re being asked to take on the trek to the summit are just too high. ”


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