Christopher James Blythe, 2016. Emma’s Willow: Historical Anxiety, Mormon Pilgrimage and Nauvoo’s Mater Dolorosa, Material Religion 12: 405-432.
Abstract: Religious institutions establish collective identities through the production of a usable past, and thereby provide adherents with a sense of heritage. This article examines how this process functions in a Mormon pilgrimage site, Nauvoo, Illinois, where not one but two competing institutions, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and Community of Christ, have established alternative narratives of identity. I focus on the thousands of (almost exclusively) LDS pilgrims who visit the town each summer. I argue that the presence of multiple interpretations raises significant anxieties for many of these pilgrims. In an attempt to mediate these anxieties a vernacular religious site, a willow tree, is employed to point pilgrims to a Saint figure, Emma Smith, Joseph Smith Jr.’s widow, in order to fortify an alternative narrative existing outside of either official representation of Nauvoo’s past.
Abstract: Many scholars have debated the potential results of pilgrimage, but few have tracked how pre-trip goals actually relate to post-trip outcomes. Based on research with US evangelicals, this article argues that, despite being confronted with the possibility of disrupted meaning, nearly every pilgrim comes to see the trip as a success. To understand why, I draw on studies that frame Christian rituals as processes that are partial and in flux. Firstly, I explore how gendered notions of relationality affect perceptions of efficacy and lead to multiple goal-setting. Secondly, I show how the journey is couched within broader epistemologies that define a Christian life as incremental improvements, where one ‘grows’ with God. Thus the meaning making associated with pilgrimage is never fully complete, but is compelled into a future where further interpretations and presumed successes are inchoate. Ultimately, the belief in future meaning is as important—perhaps more so—than immediate ritual success.
Publisher’s description: For many Evangelical Christians, a trip to the Holy Land is an integral part of practicing their faith. Arriving in groups, most of these pilgrims are guided by Jewish Israeli tour guides. For more than three decades, Jackie Feldman—born into an Orthodox Jewish family in New York, now an Israeli citizen, scholar, and licensed guide—has been leading tours, interpreting Biblical landscapes, and fielding questions about religion and current politics. In this book, he draws on pilgrimage and tourism studies, his own experiences, and interviews with other guides, Palestinian drivers and travel agents, and Christian pastors to examine the complex interactions through which guides and tourists “co-produce” the Bible Land. He uncovers the implicit politics of travel brochures and religious souvenirs. Feldman asks what it means when Jewish-Israeli guides get caught up in their own performances or participate in Christian rituals, and reflects on how his interactions with Christian tourists have changed his understanding of himself and his views of religion.
“On each trip, certain interpenetrations are articulated and shaped by group leaders, Many, however, are not. At the back of the bus, pilgrims make the experience meaningful in ways that guides and tour operators may not expect and cannot predict. Pilgrims keep these deeply felt connections to themselves, and they color each trip in very personal ways.” (Kaell 2014: 80)
Although I have been working with American Holy Land pilgrims for over three decades, both as anthropologist and as tour guide, Hillary Kaell’s book surprised me. The perspective she has chosen – accompanying and talking with women before, during and after the voyage – places the voyage within a longue durée that was invisible to me as tour guide, and only partially visible as researcher. Rather than privilege the narratives spoken into bus microphones by guides and pastors/priests, Kaell places her microphone with the woman in the back, who rarely expresses her desires or thoughts in public on the tour. This perspective is a useful corrective to scholars who focus on ecclesiastical guidelines, sermons, recited public prayers, guides’ explanations, and the goals made explicit by the pilgrim/tour industry or the pastors who organize and lead groups. Kaell’s concentration on the lived experience of 50-75 year-old Catholic and evangelical American women traveling to the Holy Land demonstrates how the geographical, political or even biblical context of the sites and routes of the Holy Land may serve as the background for an intensely personal trajectory. This personal path is a continuation of the home lives of ‘middle-old’ aged women, who make up a major portion of Holy Land pilgrims. Without ignoring denominational distinctions, Kaell reminds us that the pilgrimage experience is rooted in profoundly American, (mainly) middle-class values that cut across traditional religious lines. Continue reading →
Abstract: In this article the author explores the ways in which Catholic, evangelical, and Candomblé actors produce competing framings that shape encounters taking place in the city of Cachoeira in the Brazilian state of Bahia. The framing of Cachoeira as a site of heritage tourism – one where local religious practices are read as part of the African heritage and attractions for African American ‘roots tourists’ – obscures as much as it reveals. This is not to suggest that this framing is entirely inaccurate or to deny that many visitors themselves describe their trips to Bahia this way. But I contend that the ‘heritage frame’ masks key issues that complicate diasporic encounters in Cachoeira, particularly different understandings of heritage and religion and their relationship to black identity that African Americans and Afro-Brazilians bring to these encounters.
Abstract: Based on long-term ethnographic research, this paper examines therole of material culture (objects, souvenirs, art and built structures) in the contemporary Catholic cult of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, particularly how it iscreated, contextualised, contested, and consumed by pilgrims at Pio’s shrine of San Giovanni Rotondo. The shrine’s managers have frequently been criticised for its commercialism and invasive nature. While some critiques are warranted, this paper argues that they fail to consider deeper meanings of these objects. In particular, they are conceived of as relics – social and spiritual mediators – that connect the pilgrim with the saint and with other devotees; they are alsoidentity markers whose employment by diverse groups within the cult bothindex and construct deeply held cosmological notions of their relationship to Pio and the supernatural. The examination of these factors, therefore,ultimately provides a valuable look at the discourses and practices during theformation of a major saint’s cult.
Abstract: This article explores two seemingly contrasting types of Christian worship (one led by the pipe organ and the other by satsang), which I repeatedly experienced (between 2006 and 2010) during my fieldwork in Shimla, North India. Although it is often assumed that the pipe organ speaks more to colonial worship and satsang to postcolonial worship, this article demonstrates that both of these styles of worship are actually postcolonial attempts to negotiate colonial history. This suggests a need to complicate contemporary external discussions of the inculturation of Christian worship in India. Furthermore, by focusing on the way that contemporary Christians work with missionary histories to create living landscapes of worship, this article demonstrates that Christian worship is central to the identity of many non-Christian residents and tourists, who are also central to the formation of Christian landscapes of worship. The article concludes by suggesting that these groups also need to be brought into debates about the nature of Christian worship in contemporary India.
Beautiful islands of beaches, colorful and fascinating cultures, and delicious tropical cuisine, it is no wonder the economies of the tiny island nations of the Caribbean have become dominated by tourism in their postcolonial history. At the same time, reading about Caribbean history and politics may produce conflicted feelings about benefiting from the exploitation of the people and their land. It’s hard to enjoy your Piña Colada if you’re too aware of the colonial history of exploitation behind the excellent service at Club Med.
But are the excellent service, the friendly smiles, and warm welcome just a cover for deep-seated resentment and cultural tension? As Francio Guadeloupe notes in the conclusion of Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity and Capitalism in the Caribbean, the Caribbean generally is often portrayed in terms of these contrasts: the Caribbean downtrodden and their Western exploiters; neocolonial nationalists struggling against European empire; local religious movements against Christian hegemony; men versus women; Black against White; in short, a “Caribbean that has become paradigmatic for students of Caribbean studies” (206).
Abstract: This paper concerns U.S. evangelical Christian mission practice in the Muslim world. Interests in and support for mission work among Muslims have increased – shifts that evangelical church leaders and missiologists attribute to the impacts of 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed – and the short-term segment, which fuses voluntarism, tourism and evangelism, represents the newest paradigm in these undertakings. While the overall popularity of short-term mission is recognised by scholars and church leaders, its role in mediating interactions between Christians and Muslims has received little attention. This paper documents short-term mission engagement with Islam by showing how Islam is represented by agencies and how volunteers interact with Muslims. I argue that styles of representing and engaging with Islam, while arising from a range of theological orientations, are also products of changing contexts and practices of mission, both the routinisation of short-term mission and the expanded opportunities for mission under rubric of faith-based development. This paper is based on research in Southern California between 2009 and 2012, including visual and textual content analyses of sending agencies’ websites and guidebooks, and interviews with 57 short-term mission participants.
Opening Paragraph: “Each year nearly 300,000 US Christians walk where Jesus walked,’ traveling halfway around the world to visit biblical sites in Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA). As they tread hallowed ground, gaze from bus windows, and snap photos at panoramic lookouts, these pilgrims notice trash: litter, abandoned cars, unkempt houses. Garbage is always present at idealized sites, of course, but most tourists overlook it (Urry, 2002). In the Holy Land, however, it is too symbolically resonant to ignore. In fact, ‘trash talk’ serves a crucial role in the trip’s discourse. It offers US pilgrims a way to speak in a moral register about Israelis and Palestinians without engaging regional politics directly, which most try hard to avoid.”