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Follow the breath: mindfulness as travelling pedagogy

Remy Low (Sydney School of Education and Social Work, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Article publication date: 14 February 2022

Issue publication date: 22 November 2022




This article considers the ethical and political significance of mindfulness by treating it as a pedagogy – that is, as a way of cultivating particular human capacities in response to a specific situation. It puts forward an approach for evaluating its implications not by recourse to a predetermined moral meter, but by locating it within specific historical and geographical contexts as mediated biographically by individual teachers.


Drawing on Edward Said's concept of “traveling theory”, this article proposes an approach called “travelling pedagogy” that sensitises the researcher to how the interplay of temporal, spatial, and biographical factors shape reiterations of any pedagogy. It then uses this conceptual framework to explore how mindfulness has been taught by three of its prominent proponents: Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and bell hooks.


The exploration of how mindfulness has been taught by the three prominent teachers featured in this article demonstrates how its ethico-political implications transform under varied conditions of urgency faced by these teachers, respectively: war and militarisation; scientific legitimacy; racialised and gendered capitalism. This points to how a historical approach might add nuance to the discussions and debates on mindfulness beyond overgeneralised hype on the one hand, and sweeping “McMindfulness” critiques on the other.


This article proposes a new conceptual framework for evaluating the ethical and political significance of mindfulness – and indeed any form of pedagogy – by tracking it at the nexus of history, geography, and biography. By conceiving of mindfulness as a travelling pedagogy, it also counsels a more worldly consideration of its implications beyond beatific celebration and patrician contempt.



This paper forms part of a special section “The history of knowledge and the history of education”, guest edited by Joel Barnes and Tamson Pietsch.


Low, R. (2022), "Follow the breath: mindfulness as travelling pedagogy", History of Education Review, Vol. 51 No. 2, pp. 154-167.



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