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Looking 'East': An Exploratory Analysis of Western Disenchantment


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Phillips, T and Aarons, HM 2007 , 'Looking 'East': An Exploratory Analysis of Western Disenchantment' , International Sociology, vol. 22, No. 3 , pp. 325-341 , doi: 10.1177/0268580907076572.

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The marked presence of eastern spiritual ideas in the religious imaginings
of western peoples is a significant feature of the faith landscapes of contemporary
societies. Yet sociological knowledge of eastern spirituality among western constituents
remains comparatively undeveloped. The study proposes it is sociologically
useful to think about involvement with eastern spirituality as a particular
expression of disenchantment with the West. The research examines the plausibility
of this approach by reporting and reflecting on the results of an investigative
quantitative study of individuals involved with eastern spirituality. The findings
show that individuals engaged with eastern spirituality were more deeply disenchanted
with a western self-identity than people in general. Furthermore, the
results suggest that among the involved, the most disenchanted favoured a particular
style of eastern practice. For these adherents, dedicated practice without belonging
was the preferred mode of engagement with eastern spirituality. This result
might be seen to point to the presence of a manifest ambivalence among the heavily
disenchanted towards Orientalist practices of classifying and categorizing ‘the
East’. More generally, the study suggests how modern individuals respond to identity
imbalance between being western yet not feeling western as an important sociological
question in the current era.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Phillips, T and Aarons, HM
Keywords: disenchantment, eastern spirituality, identity, individuals, Orientalism, the West
Journal or Publication Title: International Sociology
Publisher: Sage Publications
ISSN: 0268-5809
DOI / ID Number: 10.1177/0268580907076572
Additional Information:

© 2007 International Sociological Association

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