The movement of money in Christian pilgrimage is a profound mirror of cultural classifications. By examining tips, commissions, and souvenir purchases in Holy Land pilgrimages, I show how the transfer of monies activates a series of multiple, complex relationships between Jewish guides, Palestinian drivers, and Christian pilgrims. I identify the 'colors'—or moral values—of salaries, tips, and commissions that change hands as 'white', 'black', or 'gray' monies and correlate these colors with particular discourses and degrees of transparency. I then illustrate how prayer, rituals, and the citation of scripture may 'bleach' these monies, transforming tips into 'love offerings' and souvenir purchases into aids to spiritual development or charity to local communities, while fostering relationships and conveying messages across religious and cultural lines. Far from being a universal 'acid' that taints human relationships, pilgrimage monies demonstrate how, through the exchange of goods, people are able to create and maintain spiritual values.
Tips, Commissions, and Ritual in Christian Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Finding Comfort in Nothingness
This article considers the ways in which Roman Catholic pilgrims on a tour in the Holy Land reacted to displays of emotion, exposing both the fragility and the strength of a religious community struggling with uncertainties concerning belief and practice. Participants focused on a reading of the biblical gospel that, in its original form, omitted the story of Christ's resurrection. The pilgrims were encouraged to identify themselves with the earliest Christians confronted by an empty tomb and to explore the lessons in Mark's gospel for a community of Christians in crisis. The 'empty tomb' is read here as a metaphor for the 'limits of meaning', found in all practices of interpretation, whether exegetical or anthropological. Attention is focused on how various actors responded to each other and to a place, the Holy Land, which challenges the interpretive skills of most, particularly those encouraged to remain open and respectful of the stories and religious traditions of others.
Voice and the Transpositions of History in Religious Zionist Pilgrimage
Alejandro I. Paz
This article examines how Elad, a religious Zionist settler group, attempts to reanimate biblical tales by transposing biblical text as part of tours for Jewish visitors to the City of David archaeological site in East Jerusalem. Since the early 1990s, Elad has created controversy by settling in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, provoking criticism from Israeli archaeologists and peace activists. In an effort to avoid 'politics' during tours, the group emphasizes a now globalized historicist reading of the Bible, an interpretation popularized by archaeology over the last century and a half. The article considers how transposition from this historicist reading into the here and now is a rhetorical device used to create a biblical realism that does not yet exist in the contested landscape. However, rather than producing an erasure of the Palestinian presence, and in contradiction to the professed desire to refrain from politics, I show that the very communicative situation and multiple framings for producing this biblical realism inevitably remind visitors of the contemporary context.
Contested Narratives of Storied Places—the Holy Lands
The articles in this special section on pilgrimage and the Holy Lands provide a wide range of perspectives on the practice, representation, and production of sacred space as expressions of knowledge and power. The experience of space of the pilgrim and the politically committed tourist is characterized by distance, impermanence, desire, contestation, and the entwinement of the material and the spiritual. The wealth of historical Christian and Western narratives/images of the Holy Land, the short duration of pilgrimage, the encounter with otherness, the entextualization of sites, and the semiotic nature of tourism all open a gap between the perceptions of pilgrims and those of 'natives'. Although the intertwining of symbolic condensation, legitimation, and power makes these Holy Land sites extremely volatile, many pilgrimages sidestep confrontation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as inimical to the spirit of pilgrimage. A comparative view of the practices of contemporary Holy Land pilgrims demonstrates how communitas and conflict, openness and isolation are constantly being negotiated.
Authority, Aesthetics, and the Wisdom of Foolishness
Simon Coleman and Ruy Llera Blanes
With characteristic playfulness, the subject of this volume’s portrait, Gananath Obeyesekere, calls his contribution a celebration of ‘foolishness’. But this is indeed a fertile foolishness. It implies not only an admission that the ethnographer lacks omniscience, but also a positive freedom to engage passionately in comparison, to avoid disciplinary overspecialization, to understand that the “non-rational is not necessarily irrational,” and to acknowledge the power of art and literature as potential inspirations for our work. Of course, as Obeyesekere admits, the ludic and the ironic also entail risks, as they can provoke anger in others. Nonetheless, his words have many echoes in this volume, particularly in their invocation of the power of the aesthetic combined with the ironic, exemplified by reference to the fool in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. They also provoke thoughtful reflections from our three commentators on Obeyesekere’s work, Douglas Hollan, Luís Quintais, and Unni Wikan.
Ends and Beginnings
Ruy Blanes and Simon Coleman
The fact that you are reading these lines indicates that (1) issue number 4 of Advances in Research: Religion and Society has been published; and that (2) the world did not end, as expected by some, in December 2012. The buzz surrounding the Mayan calendar seemed for us as editors to be an appropriate pretext to conjure a debate concerning the intersection of religion and environmental apocalypticism. The four contributions to this debate reflect, in a critical and engaged fashion, on such intersections and their mediatization. Anna Fedele takes the Mayan calendar controversy as a starting point to argue for a history of apocalyptic prophecies in Western New Age and spiritual movements, in which prophetic success or failure have not depended on empirical confirmations. Terry Leahy draws on his research in Newcastle, Australia, to explain that apocalypticism is not exclusive to religious movements, and in fact circulates in different scientific and political spheres. Stefan Skrimshire also pursues this argument, moving beyond the caricature-filled debates between so-called latter-day prophets who campaign on environmental issues and the political orientations of environmental skeptics, and using this approach to decouple apocalypticism and prophecy. Peter Rudiak-Gould, in turn, explores cataclysmic apocalypse narratives in the context of wider expectations of moral and political change, both within and beyond the religious discourse of sin and repentance. All contributions in this section portray logics and contexts of environmental apocalypticism in sketches that overlap but also exceed religious spheres.
IAHR World Congress Erfurt 2015
Reverberations—New Directions in the Study of Prayer
Emory Forum for the Ethnographic Study of Religion
The Sociology of Islam Journal
One Hundred Years of Anthropology of Religion
Ramon Sarró, Simon Coleman, and Ruy Llera Blanes
One could say that in 2012 the scientific study of religion, particularly in its anthropological form, has become one hundred years old. In 1912, Durkheim published The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, perhaps the most influential book in the social study of religion, and certainly in the anthropology of religion, of the entire twentieth century. But this was not the only seminal work published around a century ago. A little earlier than that, in 1909, Arnold van Gennep’s Les rites de passage inaugurated an interest in liminality and ritual that has accompanied our discipline ever since. That same year, Marcel Mauss wrote La prière, an unfinished thesis that started an equally unfinished interest in prayer, one of the central devotional practices in many religions across the globe. In 1910, Lévy-Bruhl published his first explicitly anthropological book, How Natives Think, a problematic ancestor of a debate about rationality and modes of thought that has accompanied anthropology and philosophy ever since. In 1913, Freud tackled the then fashionable topic of totemism in his Totem and Taboo. Around those early years of the century, too, Max Weber was starting to write about charisma, secularization, and rationalization, topics of enduring interest.
Ashgate Studies in Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage Studies Database
Centre for Religion, Conflict and the Public Domain
XXI World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions
Reflections from an AAA Teaching Workshop
James S. Bielo
Good teaching is a craft. It requires constant honing. While perfection eludes most of us most of the time, our best days are intellectually generative, meaningful, and often quite fun. I intend this essay as a gesture in that same spirit.