Rethinking Pilgrimage, Seduction, and Difference

Special session for the Conference, “Tourism and the Seduction of Difference”        [go to general conference CFP]

1st Tourism-Contact-Culture Research Network Conference

Lisbon, Portugal – 10-12 Sept 2010


Session Premise

Pilgrimage is perhaps the most emotional, most seductive of touristic interactions; it is known to generate intense feelings of ecstasy and transcendence, self-inflicted suffering and penitential pain. Drawing on Eliade and van Gennep, Victor and Edith Turner considered pilgrimage in terms of structuralist binaries, as predicated on difference: Pilgrimage, they argued, is a movement from profane to sacred; from periphery to center (or vice-versa); from quotidianity to liminality. Complicating their notions of difference is V. Turner’s assertion that pilgrimage, by its very nature, creates communitas, a sensation of human commonality that transcends the daily differences inherent in social structure. However, critics of this assessment, particularly Eade and Sallnow, argue that difference is actually intensified during pilgrimage, as various individuals and communities utilize pilgrimage for asserting social status claims, for generating economic profit at others’ expense, or for political purposes. Pilgrimage sites, too, employ a variety of symbols to differentiate “true” pilgrims from secular travelers; the most well-known, of course, is the “passport” carried by Caministas on the way to Santiago de Compostela, which entitle them to nearly free lodging along the way, special blessings upon arrival, and an official certificate to take back home.


Pilgrimage research has also contributed to complexifying the academic study of tourism. Graburn and others have utilized the Turners’ binaries to productively analyze the “secular ritual” of touristic encounters. Analyzing different cultures’ conceptualization of pilgrimage as “contemplation while viewing,” Di Giovine has linked Turner/Graburn, and Urry’s famous “tourist gaze”—itself predicated on difference, on separating out the picturesque from the mundane. Yet as Crick pointed out long ago, while pilgrimage is a time-honored topic of scientific investigation, there remains a general apprehension in academia to fully engage in tourism research.


This special session is envisioned to both complement and call into question common ways of thinking about the conference theme—tourism and the seductions of difference—by exploring, unpacking, and critically rethinking the established analytical premises concerning the intersections of pilgrimage and tourism, the relationship between seductive emotions and pilgrimage, and the contested binaries commonly employed to analyze pilgrimage as a ritual structure.


Suggested Themes

In addition to the themes suggested in the conference’s general CFP, suggested subject matter for this panel include, but are not limited to:


  • Phenomenologies of tourism and pilgrimage: similarities, differences, methodological intersections; secular pilgrimages/religious tourism
  • Communitas, social structure, and difference
  • Sacred vs. profane geographies, practices, discourses in pilgrimage sites
  • “Profanity” and illicit activities at sacred sites
  • Emotion, devotion, and seduction in pilgrimage
  • Suffering, salvation, penance in pilgrimage discourses and practice
  • Cross-cultural / comparative pilgrimage practices
  • Political economy of pilgrimage sites, site management, revitalization/development, heritage designations
  • Reconceptualizing pilgrimage: new theories and methods for the study of pilgrimage


Publication Possibilities

As with all accepted conference papers, there will likely be several publication possibilities, in addition to conference proceedings. Furthermore, it is hoped that this special session can provide the core of a possible edited volume based on the conference theme, “seductions of difference.”


Additional Information

Interested parties should send a150-word abstract by 31 March 2010 to the session director, Michael A. Di Giovine, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago ( (PLEASE NOTE this differs from the general conference deadline). Late abstracts may be accepted.