Sara Rahmani

Teaching in 2020

Teaching in 2020

Qualifications

PhD Otago

Research Specialties

I’m interested in new religious movements, contemporary spiritualities, meditation groups, and Asian religions especially as they are received in non-Asian contexts. My research in these fields is particularly focused on the process of religious change, identity construction, and the role of language in shaping experience and thought. I use ethnography, in-depth interviews, and a combination of analytical frameworks (e.g., narrative, linguistic, and discourse analysis) to explore these phenomena.

My doctorate dissertation, Drifting through Samsara, explored the processes of joining and leaving S. N. Goenka’s Vipassana meditation in New Zealand – a global meditation movement distinguished for its rich rhetorical repertoire for repackaging Theravada Buddhist teachings in pseudo-scientific and secular language. This work examined the implication of the movement’s discourse on shaping unique processes/narratives of conversion and disengagement. My latest longitudinal project explored the diversity of “unbelief” in the mindfulness subcultures of the UK and the US and examined the influence of the practice on the worldviews of non-religious/atheist practitioners.

Recent Publications

Rahmani, M. (forthcoming) “Understanding Unbelief in the Mindfulness Subculture”. In: Lee, L., Bullivant, S., Farias, M., and Lanman, J. eds. Cultures of Unbelief. Oxford University Press

Rahmani, M. (In Press) “Secular Rhetoric as a Legitimating Strategy for Mindfulness Meditation”. In: Newcombe, S., and O’Brien-Kop, K. eds. Routledge Handbook of Yoga and Meditation Studies. Routledge

Farias, M. and Rahmani, M. (In Press) “The Alchemy of Meditation: Turning religion into science and science into religion”. In: De Manning, R. ed. Mutual Enrichment: Theology, Psychology, and Religious Life. Routledge.

Rahmani, M. (In Press). “Tacit Conversion: A Linguistic Analysis of a Vipassana Meditator’s Narrative of Self-Transformation”. In: Jindra, I.W. and Sremac, S. eds., Conversion and Lived Religion: Recovery, Imprisonment and Homelessness. Palgrave Macmillan

Rahmani, M. (2020) “Goenka’s Vipassana Movement: From Conversion to Disaffiliation”.  In: Farias, M., Brazier, D., and Lalljee, M. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Meditation. Oxford University Press.

Rahmani, M. (2019). Leaving Vipassana Meditation. In Handbook of Leaving Religion. Brill. doi:10.1163/9789004331471_011

Rahmani, M., & Pagis, M. (2015). Vipassana Meditation as Taught by S.N. Goenka. In World Religions and Spiritualities Project.

Selected Conferences, Seminars and Workshops

Rahmani, M. (2019). Is Mindfulness meditation the Gateway to Buddhism? IAPR 2019 (International Association for the Psychology of Religion). Gdańsk, Poland

Rahmani, M. (2019). Meditation and Secularisms. Disciplines and Dialogue - The Future of Yoga and Meditation Studies. SOAS University of London.

Rahmani, M. (2019). Exploring unbelief in the Mindfulness subculture. IAPR 2019 (International Association for the Psychology of Religion). Gdańsk, Poland

Rahmani, M. (2019). Understanding unbelief in the mindfulness subculture. Cultures of Unbelief. Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy

Rahmani, M. (2018). Linguistic structures behind ambiguous non-Buddhist, nonreligious identities. 5th Biennial Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network Conference: Worldviews in Worldview: Particularizing Secularism, Secularity and Nonreligion. King's College, London

Rahmani, M. (2018). Tacit Conversion to Goenkaʹs Vipassana Movement. EASR 2018: Multiple Religious Identities (European Association for the Study of Religions). Bern, Switzerland

Rahmani, M., & Farias, M. (2018). Mindfulness Meditation: A secular religion for non-believers?. EASR 2018: Multiple Religious Identities (European Association for the Study of Religions). Bern, Switzerland

Rahmani, M. (2018). Tacit Conversion to Vipassana Meditation. Implicit Religion 2018 Conference: Troubling the norms through embodied / disembodied choices. Leeds, England, UK

Rahmani, M. (2015). ‘Tacit Disaffiliation’: Disaffiliation in the Absent of an Explicit Conversion. New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions (NZASR)/Australian Association for the Study of Religions (AASR) Joint Conference. Queenstown, New Zealand.

Rahmani, M. (2015). ‘Tacit Disaffiliation’: Disaffiliation in the Absent of an Explicit Conversion. Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and Religious Research Association Annual Meeting 2015. Newport Beach, CA, USA

Rahmani, M. (2014). Tacit Conversion. Asian Migration Postgraduate Symposium. University of Otago

Rahmani, M. (2013). Goenka the Gatekeeper to Dhamma: An Analysis of S. N. Goenka’s Secularisation of Vipassana Meditation. Biennial Conference of the New Zealand Association for the Study of Religions. Massey University, Wellington Campus.

Public Engagement

Rahmani, M. (2019). The problem with mindfulness. The Conversation, 7 June

Rahmani, M. (2018). Episode 298: Sara Rahmani: Understanding Unbelief: Mindfulness Meditation Project. The Secular Buddhist Podcast, 22 July

Awards

Exceptional Doctoral Theses in Humanities, University of Otago (2017)

Teaching in 2020

Teaching in 2020