Posthuman Buddhism


Les Roberts (London: Routledge, 2023)

    Introduction: In Search of Spaciousness                                                                                                                

    1. Dwelling in the Space of the Self: Home, Extensionality, Memory

    1.1 Content in an empty room

    1.2 Extensionality and the postmodern self

    1.3 Homing in to the presentness of memory


     2. The Lama, the Changeling and the Wardrobe: Bowie, Buddhism, Transitional Space

    2.1 “Change is our river”

    2.2 “I’m a mid-art populist and postmodernist Buddhist”

    2.3 “What the piece of art is about is the grey space in the middle”


     3. Wherever You Go, There You Are Wired: Empty Time, Boredom, Liminality

    3.1 The pursuit of mindful distraction

    3.2 The liminality of boredom

    3.3 The posthuman mindfulness industry


    4. Streaming the Mindstream: Ambience, Spaciousness, Slowness

    4.1 Into the blue

    4.2 Spacious atmospheres of the self

    4.3 Slowing the mindstream

    Conclusion: The Production of Dwellspace 

    In Posthuman Buddhism and the Digital Self, Les Roberts extends his earlier work on spatial anthropology to consider questions of time, spaciousness, and the phenomenology of self. Across the book’s four main chapters – which range from David Bowie’s long-standing interest in Buddhism, to street photography of 1980s Liverpool, to the ambient soundscapes of Derek Jarman’s Blue, or to the slow, contemplative cinema of Tsai Ming-Liang – Roberts lays the groundwork for the concept of ‘dwellspace’ as a means by which to unpick the shifting spatial, temporal and experiential modalities of everyday mediascapes. Understood as a particular disposition towards time, Roberts’s foray into dwellspace proceeds from a Pascalian reflection on the self/non-self in which being content in an empty room vies with the demands of having content in an empty room. Taking the idea of posthuman Buddhism as a heuristic lens, Roberts sets in motion a number of interrelated lines of enquiry that prompt renewed focus on questions of boredom, distraction and reverie, and cast into sharper relief the psychosocial and creative affordances of ambience, spaciousness and slowness. The book argues that the colonisation of ‘empty time’ by 24/7 digital capitalism has gone hand-in-hand with the growth of the corporate mindfulness industry, and with it, the co-option, commodification and mediatisation of dwellspace. Posthuman Buddhism is thus in part an exploration of the dialectics of dwellspace that orbits around a creative self-praxis rooted in the negation and dissolution of the self, one of the foundational cornerstones of Buddhist theory and practice.

    Through a series of fascinating case studies, Les Roberts explores what it means to be an emplaced and embodied human being in a digital, mediated age. His book is full of both vivid, concrete examples and suggestive theoretical interventions. It takes the study of the everyday into new, exciting areas.” Joe Moran, Liverpool John Moores University, UK