The Gaze. Unfolding Realms of Enquiry
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This text probes into the phenomenon of seeking, as it is narrated by, and manifesting itselfamong, people who have visited Norwegian Buddhist groups to various extent. Seeking maymanifest itself in a multitude of activities, from meditation to yoga, Tai Chi, to different kindsof healing and to massages, as well as to general courses of “self development”. But seekingalso goes beyond such tangible and observable activities. It embraces certain modes ofreflecting on the self and the world as well as modes of enacting these reflections. This meansthat seeking transcends distinctions between the individual and society, as being a projectwhereby the individual can be understood as (re)creating her/himself as a socially constitutedbeing. By probing into stories about seeking, this investigation wrestles with intersectionsbetween language and embodiment, and between social context and the individual. Seeking isused as a prism through which the analytical gaze is cast in a multitude of directions. Thestories told by seekers are explored alongside the enterprise of making stories into objects ofstudy as such: What we learn from stories will depend on what we believe stories to be in thefirst place. It depends on what realms of enquiry our analytical tools allow us to slice open.By tracing the investigative procedure as a certain kind of gaze, one that makes objects ofstudy crystallize, the project leads into a terrain where power-structures become visible. Muchacademic literature focuses on religious and spiritual matters in ways that objectify seeking –thereby emptying it of what is at stake for the seeker. The shopping metaphor that frequentlycharacterises much academic literature, may illustrate this point. Questioning the shoppingmetaphor, this analysis investigates its conditions of emergence, and discerns certainrenderings of seeking ( – and thereby also of the seekers – ) as products of the analyticalprocess itself. The analytical process, alongside unspoken ontological and epistemologicalpresuppositions, has the propensity of creating gaps between the knowledge produced by theinvestigator, and the knowledge the individual seeker has of what is at stake in her/hispersonal quest. This text points out and explores such gaps, directing attention towards thelimits of our analytical tools.The present study slices into analytical complexities from an angle where concrete immediacyand experience is made the methodological starting point. It does not claim to be making anyexhaustive investigation: On the contrary, a central point is that there will always be more toreality than what we happen to have access to. But by extracting and annotating elements from phenomenology, critical realism and narrative theory, conceptual tools are explored that mayprobe into life stories in ways that may better account for the imperatives behind theirconstruction. Simultaneously, seeking in itself is revealed as a way of opening up realms ofenquiry, of probing into questions of life and death. The informants as well as the researchermay be understood as engaging in processes of unfolding: Realms of enquiry, and lives to belived. Acknowledging life stories as phenomena arising from bodies immersed in the world,a world that works upon the narrator as well as being worked upon, and last, but not least,where something is at stake for the storyteller, this dissertation explores, and argues for, thenecessity of a phenomenology of narratives.