Falun Gong in the United States: An Ethnographic Study

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Universal-Publishers, 2003 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 288 pages
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Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, has been described in many ways. It has been called qigong, one of many schools of physical exercises that aim at improving health and developing supernatural abilities. Scholars and mainstream media have referred it to as a spiritual movement or religion, although practitioners claim it is not a religion. It has been called a cult, in the pejorative sense rather than in a sociological context, by the Chinese government and by some Western critics. In the writings of Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong, it is referred to in different ways, though primarily as a cultivation practice. The question of how to define Falun Gong is not just an academic issue; the use of the cult label has been used to justify the persecution of practitioners in China. To a limited degree, the Chinese Government is able to extend the persecution overseas. How society defines Falun Gong has implications for action on the level of policy, as well as the shaping of social, cultural, and personal attitudes. This research project addresses what Falun Gong is through ethnography. Research methods included participant-observation, semi-structured ethnographic interviews (both in-person and on-line), and content analysis of text and visual data from Falun Gong books, pamphlets, and websites. Research sites included Tampa, Washington D.C., and cyberspace. In order to keep my research relevant to the issues and concerns of the Falun Gong community, I was in regular contact with the Tampa practitioners, keeping them abreast of my progress and asking for their input. My findings are contrary to the allegations made by the Chinese Government and Western anti-cultists in many ways. Practitioners are not encouraged to rely on Western medicine, but are not prohibited from using it. Child practitioners are not put at risk. Their organizational structure is very loose. Finally, the Internet has played a vital role in Falun Gong's growth and continuation after the crackdown.
 

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Contents

Public Practitioner Narratives about Illness
160
Interview Findings
166
Concluding Remarks on the Health Care Controversy
172
Social Structure
177
Falun Gong and Finances
197
Falun Gongs Hong Kong Splinter Group Peng Shan Shan
199
Falun Dafa Professional Practitioners
205
Falun Gong and the Internet
207

Classification of Falun Gong
35
Is Falun Gong a Cult?
40
Is Falun Gong a Political Movement?
45
Is Falun Gong a Millenarian or Revitalization Movement?
58
Falun Gong History
67
The Rise of Falun Gong
72
Why The Crackdown?
86
After the Crackdown
99
Falun Gongs Growth in the United States
107
RESULTS
113
Basic Demographics of Practitioners Worldwide
116
Difficulties in Identifying Practitioners
126
The Tampa Practitioners
128
The Washington DC Practitioners
129
The Internet Practitioners
142
Similarities and Differences in Background Circumstances
144
Qigong Background
146
Turning to Falun Gong for Healing
147
Common Elements of Falun Gong Conversion Narratives
148
Health Care and Falun Gong
153
The Medical Care Controversy
155
A Brief History of Falun Gong Websites
209
The Content of Falun Gong Websites
212
The Significance of the Internet for Falun Gong
219
How Practitioners are Raising Awareness
222
Methods of Getting the Message Out
227
Selected Practitioner Biographies
230
From Car Accident to Cultivator
236
Sharing a Point to View
238
Comments on Nappis biography
245
CONCLUSION
246
Summary
247
Significance of an Anthropological Approach
253
Recommendations
256
Recommendations for Falun Gong
257
REFERENCES CITED
260
APPENDICES
283
Tampa SemiStructured Interview Protocol
284
DC SemiStructured Interview Protocol
285
Internet SemiStructured Interview Protocol
287
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1811-1892

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