Mind, Consciousness, Brain

An Interdisciplinary Conversation

Friday April 27th 2018
Organizer: Professor Arvind Mandair (University of Michigan)

Since the mid 1990’s, “consciousness,” “states of consciousness,” and “the mind” have come into focus as an object of inquiry across several, largely disconnected institutional settings, religious communities, and academic disciplines. These “states of mind” attracting recent interest have been conceived of in many different ways: non-normative (pathological), hallucinatory, religious, spiritual, or mystic—while still others have focused on better understanding a baseline, normative state of consciousness. The purpose of this workshop bring together scholars and practitioners whose work engages a variety of disciplines (neuroscience/psychology/psychiatry, consciousness studies, religious studies, philosophy, psychoanalysis) to begin to forge a common language and shared set of goals. In doing so, we hope it might be possible to organize what we see as a disparately formed but intuitively linked group of interests and desires, from which we can stage a productive conversation and future collaboration among existing lines of inquiry.

We are seeking to bring together recent investments in “mind/consciousness” from the perspectives of the translation of and theorization on Asian religious traditions (specifically in this workshop the Sikh and broader South Asian tradition) in the colonial and post-colonial world; the use and place of contemplative, meditative, psychedelic and other-wise non-traditional “spiritual” practices, often based within the translation of those same traditions, in psychology and psychiatry; the investigation, empirical and experiential, into the potentials of defining and altering consciousness in the fields of neuroscience and its interlocutors; and a growing interest in synoptic or continuum based ways of thinking about the intersection of spiritual healing, mental and physical health, social justice and a more rigorous affirmation of the multiplicity of thought on the global stage.

This workshop will consist of two parts: during the morning session, we will ask each participant to present a brief, pre-written presentation. In the afternoon session, we will have an open-ended discussion to think together about our shared and differentiating goals, future potentials and possible limitations on interdisciplinary cooperation around these issues.