Abstract: Brainwashing has long been a controversial notion in understanding religious conversion. In this paper, I utilize Foucault’s notion of bio-power in identifying brainwashing as a form of medicalized social control over human bodies and minds. Discourses created by government agencies, psychologists, and the media have all contributed to understanding the adherents of new religious movements, pejoratively termed ‘cults’, as brainwashed and mentally ill. The counter-hegemonic manner in which some adherents new religious movements live their lives frequently defies the ‘common sense’ of normative societal practices, making them prime targets for social control, as they represent bodies which have failed their purpose in society. Due to some of the lost legitimacy of brainwashing discourses, child abuse accusations are growing as the new stigmatizing force against these groups. In both cases, discourses on the ‘truth’ of the danger of new religious movements are utilized as justification for intervention and control. Conceptualizing brainwashing as a form of bio-power brings to light the political forces and discourses which frame new religious movements negatively. In identifying widely unseen forms of control, there is greater potential for new religious movement members to be seen as individuals with full agentic capacity and rich religious experience.Ummm...what? Genius, that's what.
I couldn't write like that now if I had all the time in the world. So what changed? For one, I am no longer immersed in academic culture. At one point in time, approximately the time that I wrote the above paper, I hadn't read a novel in over five months. My reading, which took up two hours of my day every day, was entirely composed of academic papers. I was filled with an urgency of importance. What I was writing mattered and everyone needed to read it. Except, no one did. No one, except other sociologists knew what I was talking about. It was baffling. I tried to explain the import of what I was doing. That religious minorities were being consistently marginalized. Anyone who was listening had their own 'pet' cause. No one wanted to adopt mine.
Three years later and still, no one cares. For some reason, even though I claimed I read that academic literature because I found it interesting, I no longer read it anymore. Maybe it's for lack of having anyone to talk to about it. I really miss having my brain work in overdrive, my heart pounding as someone concludes their argument and then the three seconds of silence as they await my retort.
Academia is the only form of competition I appreciate. Everything else is too sweaty and smells of India rubber.
So I suppose I shouldn't complain the way I do about my completely useless fifty thousand dollar education. You know, the education that sucked away 5 prime years of my life into abject poverty so that I could be a secretary post-graduation? It had its benefits. I'm sure if I hadn't of gone, I would have been consumed by the idea that my life was in some way incomplete. I'm like that. I tend to focus on the tiny missed stitches, rather than the fabric of life. I like to think of it as being detail/goal oriented. I'm horrified by the idea that I will wake up one day, an incomplete person, too old to fix what I find lacking. I'm glad I went to university. I enjoyed the hell out of it. I just wish that what it gave me wasn't so fleeting.
My sense of confidence in my brain, the ability to articulate my feelings with a rational backing, is all gone. It's something that I don't think most people realise (I know I didn't) that your academic field, no matter how immersed you are in it at the moment, no matter if you live and breathe it, is just like a language. If you don't use it, it's gone. I no longer talk sociology, and I miss its adjectives, its way of wrapping everything up in a neat little package and at the same time blowing it to smithereens. But it, like the toys of my childhood, needs to be left behind. It is a part of my former self, rather than my present. It was an adult decision, realising that I needed to do concrete things with my life to be happy, rather than resting in the realm of the abstract, where the only risks I took were using Foucault as a theoretical framework for religious persecution. Since then, I've birthed a person through my body. I've promised myself to not one, but two people, for the rest of my life. I may feel stupid sometimes, but I always feel important.