Friday, November 22, 2013

1st Global Conference: Sacred Journeys: Pilgrimage and Beyond

1st Global Conference: Sacred Journeys: Pilgrimage and Beyond

Wednesday 9th July - Friday 11th July 2014, Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

Call for Presentations
Pilgrimage is one of the most ancient practices of humankind and is associated with a great variety of religious and spiritual traditions. From the small-scale 'walkabout' of Outback Australian Aborigines in search of spiritual renewal and 'caring for country', to walk in the footsteps of St Kevin in the great Celtic pilgrimage of Glendalough in Ireland, and to Lourdes in France, which annually welcomes over five million Catholics and others in search of healing or some form of deliverance, the topic of pilgrimage encompasses an enormous variety of practices, beliefs, and sacred geographies. For some religions, pilgrimage is prescribed, as with the Hajj, one of the Five Pillars of Islam. In other settings, the pilgrimage is more like sacred or heritage tourism, or tourism with a conscience. For non-Aboriginal Australians, the most sacred site is not even in Australia, but rather in Gallipoli in Turkey, the scene of an infamous battle in World War 1 that attracts an ever increasing number of pilgrims each year in April. For Armenians in Diaspora, the great Mt Ararat is the center of their ancient lands, and a webcam situated atop a downtown hotel in Yerevan transmits a live image of the mountain to 'virtual pilgrims'.

The latest research indicates that more than 130 million people embark on the traditional pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, and so on, and numbers are increasing as a consequence of globalisation. In recent times, the transformation of the pilgrimage known as 'The Way', the Camino de Santiago de Compestela in northern Spain has been most remarkable. Historically, this was the third of Christendom's major pilgrimages after Jerusalem and Rome. Today, the Camino attracts just as many atheists and agnostics as Catholics and Protestants. The Kumb Mela in India, held every 12 years, attracted over 50 million people in February 2013, including a large number of Indians from the Diaspora. For the first time in its history, a handful of untouchables were permitted entry into the Ganges for the ritual cleansing, a signal of change that is underway in that country.

Another example of the new wave of pilgrimage in the contemporary world is the Buddhist pilgrimage around the circumference of the Japanese island of Shikoku. Of the several hundred thousand people who undertake the 870km journey each year, only a few thousand walk; the vast majority travel in organised bus tours.

This Project on Sacred Journeys and Pilgrimage will explore all aspects of the practice, from its nationalistic aspects, as with Medjugorje in Bosnia, to economic and development aspects, the impact of the internet and globalisation, pilgrimage as protest (as with Gandhi's salt march or the Dalit (Untouchable) leader Dr. Ambedkar's pilgrimage to fresh water sources, and so on. The similarities and differences in the practice of sacred journeys and pilgrimage in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions and spiritual traditions, all the way to secular sites such as Graceland will be considered.

As anthropologists, we are also interested in the concept of the internal pilgrimage and the journey of self-discovery. The experiential, practical, historical, and psychological aspects of the sacred journey are central to our exploration, and we encourage all those seeking to participate to consider their work in this larger frame.

This conference will call for proposals, presentations, papers, performances on these and other aspects of sacred journeys and pilgrimage:

- The physical journey through time and space
- As a rite of passage, and personal transformation
- The quest for blessings, transcendence or healing
- The fulfillment of obligations or giving thanks
- Texts, relics, talisman, rituals, sacred geographies
- Pilgrimage versus sacred tourism
- The economics of pilgrimage
- Pilgrimage and Gender
- Pilgrimage and the internet
- Pilgrimage and nationalism/globalisation
- Pilgrimage and protest
- Secular sites and "places to see before you die"
- Fandom and journeys of adoration and remembrance

The Steering Group particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed panel proposals.

In order to support and encourage interdisciplinarity engagement, it is our intention to create the possibility of starting dialogues between the parallel events running during this conference. Delegates are welcome to attend up to two sessions in each of the concurrent conferences. We also propose to produce cross-over sessions between these groups - and we welcome proposals which deal with the relationship between Sacred Journeys and Forgiveness and Revenge

What to Send
Proposals will also be considered on any related theme. 300 word proposals should be submitted by Friday 14th February 2014. If a proposal is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper of no more than 3000 words should be submitted by Friday 16th May 2014. Proposals should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising Chairs; proposals may be in Word or RTF formats with the following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation as you would like it to appear in programme, c) email address, d) title of proposal, e) body of proposal, f) up to 10 keywords.
E-mails should be entitled: Sacred Journeys 1 Proposal Submission.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold, italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic route or resend.

Organising Chairs

Ian McIntosh and Eileen Moore Quinn:
Rob Fisher:

The conference is part of the Persons series of ongoing research and publications projects conferences, run within the Probing the Boundaries domain which aims to bring together people from different areas and interests to share ideas and explore innovative and challenging routes of intellectual and academic exploration. All proposals accepted for and presented at the conference must be in English and will be eligible for publication in an ISBN eBook. Selected proposals may be developed for publication in a themed hard copy volume(s). All publications from the conference will require editors, to be chosen from interested delegates from the conference.

Inter-Disciplinary.Net believes it is a mark of personal courtesy and professional respect to your colleagues that all delegates should attend for the full duration of the meeting. If you are unable to make this commitment, please do not submit an abstract for presentation.

For further details of the conference, please visit:

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