Falun Gong in the United States: An Ethnographic Study
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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Public Practitioner Narratives about Illness
Concluding Remarks on the Health Care Controversy
Falun Gong and Finances
Falun Gongs Hong Kong Splinter Group Peng Shan Shan
Falun Dafa Professional Practitioners
Falun Gong and the Internet
Classification of Falun Gong
Is Falun Gong a Cult?
Is Falun Gong a Political Movement?
Is Falun Gong a Millenarian or Revitalization Movement?
Falun Gong History
The Rise of Falun Gong
Why The Crackdown?
After the Crackdown
Falun Gongs Growth in the United States
Basic Demographics of Practitioners Worldwide
Difficulties in Identifying Practitioners
The Tampa Practitioners
The Washington DC Practitioners
The Internet Practitioners
Similarities and Differences in Background Circumstances
Turning to Falun Gong for Healing
Common Elements of Falun Gong Conversion Narratives
Health Care and Falun Gong
The Medical Care Controversy
A Brief History of Falun Gong Websites
The Content of Falun Gong Websites
The Significance of the Internet for Falun Gong
How Practitioners are Raising Awareness
Methods of Getting the Message Out
Selected Practitioner Biographies
From Car Accident to Cultivator
Sharing a Point to View
Comments on Nappis biography
Significance of an Anthropological Approach
Recommendations for Falun Gong
Tampa SemiStructured Interview Protocol
DC SemiStructured Interview Protocol
Internet SemiStructured Interview Protocol
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