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Knowledge at a Distance, Authority, and the Pilgrim's Gaze—A Reflection

Jackie Feldman

Abstract

Two themes that surface in the articles in this collection are: Visual knowledge and the means of acquiring it—the ability of pilgrims to see and read signs while overlooking or avoiding other sources of knowledge that are visible or readily available; and the issue of authority: who propagates and gains from the teaching, images, and practices of pilgrimage?

The articles demonstrate that distance from pilgrimage sites and ignorance of local knowledge is important in intensifying pilgrims’ experience and maintaining the power of traditional authorities. While some shrines readily adopt new technologies to diffuse their messages, activities and images, pilgrimages continue to rely on embodiment and sociality to solidify communities and commitments. The variety of engagements of pilgrimages with changing media and emerging historical realities testifies to the viability of the forms and practices of pilgrimage in transmitting other kinds of knowledge.