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Modern Pilgrimage

Class at Faculty of Arts |


Week 1: Introduction: Pilgrimage to Mecca Old and New;

Readings: 1. What is Pilgrimage (Greenia) 2. Hong Kong Muslims on Hajj (O’Connor)

Case Study: Hajj

Presentation Link  

Week 2: Pilgrimage/Tourism

Readings: 1. Theories, from The Tourist Gaze (Urry) 2. Religion and Spirituality in Tourism, from The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Tourism (Stausberg)

Case Study: Grand Tour  

Week 3: Communitas: The experience of the Pilgrim

Readings: 1. Liminality and Communitas (Turner) 2. Dream Trippers: Global Daoism and the Predicament of Modern Spirituality (Palmer & Siegler)

Case Study: Kumbha Mela  

Week 4: Sacred Places

Readings: 1. The Pilgrimage to Jim Morrison’s Grave (Margry) 2. Do You Believe in Pilgrimage? (Coleman)

Case Study: Sedlec Ossuary  

Week 5: Secular Pilgrimage


Secular Pilgrimage a Contradiction in Terms (Margry)

Case Study: New York  

Week 6: Sport Pilgrimage

Readings: 1. Handrails Steps and Curbs (O’Connor) 2. Pilgrimage to Fallen Gods of Olympia (Digance)

Case Study: Pre’s Rock  

Week 7: Dark Tourism

Readings: 1. JFK and Dark Tourism (Foley & Lennon) 2.  Making Absent Death Present (Stone)

Case Study: Chernobyl  

Week 8: Virtual Pilgrimage

Readings: 1.  Virtual Pilgrimage on the Internet (MacWilliams) 2. Hurricane Katrina (Bowan & Bannon)

Case Study: Google Maps  

Week 9: Political Pilgrimage

Readings: 1. Pilgrimage and Power, from Guests of God (Bianchi) 2.  Holocaust Tourism in Post-Holocaust Europe (Allar)

Case Study: Camino  

Week 10: Researching Pilgrimage

Readings: 1.  Interviewing, from The Routledge Handbook in Research Methods in the Study of Religion (Bremborg) 2. Researching Pilgrimage (Collins-Kreiner)

Case Study: The Thesis  

Week 11: Liminal States

Readings: 1. Fan Pilgrimage (Brooker) 2. Sex Pilgrims: Subjunctive Nostalgia, from Tourist Attractions (Mitchell)

Case Study: Harry Potter  

Week 12: Conclusion

Readings: 1. Holy Movement and Holy Place (Taylor)

Case Study: The Body


This course introduces students to the fundamentals of pilgrimage beginning with an exploration of the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The ancient origins of this pilgrimage, and its transformation into a commercial and logistical marvel of the modern world foreground what pilgrimage means in the 21st century. The course explores tourism, sacred places, dark tourism, sport pilgrimage and virtual pilgrimage. Students are encouraged to consider their own pilgrimages and travels and to register the meaning and importance of these. Modern pilgrimage is explored through contrasting academic approaches of religious studies, tourism, sport, geography, and media studies.

Questions of pilgrimage extend to notions of a sociological division between the sacred and profane. How feasible is it to divide secular tourism and sacred pilgrimage in the modern world? Of further concern is how pilgrimage equips us to connect to community, ritualise place and time, and meet the ultimate challenges of life and death.