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Sacred Journeys: the Anthropology of Pilgrimage in Europe


Toegangseisen / Admission

In addition to the general rules set for admission to the master program Religious Studies, students are expected to have some basic knowledge of Anthropology and Sociology of Religion, and of European History. A working knowledge of the English language, and a basic training in writing essays and performing presentations is necessary.

Beschrijving / Description

This course aims at providing students knowledge of and insights into the development, function and meaning of pilgrimage and sainthood in Europe, both historical and contemporary. The scholarly inquiry into the diversity of religious expressions and behavior is interdisciplinary in nature and demonstrates changes in the religious landscape revealing an increasing religious pluralism in our times.
Pilgrimage is an ‘arena’ for competing religious and secular discourses, for both the official co-optation and the non-official recovery of religious meanings, for conflict between orthodoxies, sects, and confessional groups, for drives towards consensus, and for counter movements towards division. At the same time pilgrimage can be understood or identified in terms of ‘movement’: movement as performative action (effecting certain social and cultural transformations), movement as embodied action (providing the catalyst for certain kinds of bodily experiences), movement as part of a semantic field (refering to the need to contextualize the meaning of pilgrimage within local cultural understandings of mobility), and movement as metaphor (the ways in which pilgrimage-related discourses may evoke movement rather than require it).
The study of these various expressions, in most cases fluid and ambiguous, but highly dynamic and mutable, not only provides us with knowledge about people’s changing beliefs but also about the wider society in which they manifest themselves.
In this course we will study examples of pilgrimage ant sainthood in historical and contemporary Europe, and specifically examine the theoretical orientations being used to interpret them.


See Time table

Onderwijsvorm /Format

Seminar / work-group.
Attendance is mandatory and participation in discussions consists in 10% of the grade. Each student is expected having done the assigned readings and prepared to discuss them with others. Bring the book or handouts we are working on to each meeting. If an emergency requires you to miss a meeting, notify the instructor in time, and be prepared to have another student report on what you missed; you are responsible for seminar information and announcements whether present or not.

Course load

Meetings: 10 × 2 hours = 20 hours Reading assignments: 60 hours Presentation: 20 hours End term paper: 40 hours Total: 140 hrs. (= 5 ects). ### Toetsing /Examination

Presentation, end-term paper, and participation in class.


In the course Blackboard will be used for presenting relevant study information, study materials, summaries, and announcements.

Blackboard### Literatuur

Reading assignments for each meeting will be posted on Blackboard in due time.

S. Coleman & J. Elsner, Pilgrimage. Past and Present in the World Religions (Cambridge, Mass. 1995).
V. Turner & E. Turner, Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture (New York 1978).
A. Morinis (ed.), Sacred Journeys: the Anthropology of Pilgrimage (Westport & Londen 1992).
Jean D. Clift & Wallace B. Clift, The Archetype of Pilgrimage: Outer Action with Inner Meaning (New York 1996).
S. Coleman & J.Eade (eds.), Reframing Pilgrimage: Cultures in Motion (Londen 2004).
P. Harbison, Pilgrimage in Ireland. The Monuments and the People (Londen 1992).
M.P. Carroll, Irish Pilgrimage: Holy Wells and Popular Catholic Devotion (Baltimore 1999).
R. Cranston, The Miracle of Lourdes (New York 1988).
P. Marnham, Lourdes: A Modern Pilgrimage (New York 1982).
Nancy L. Frey, Pilgrim Stories: On and Off the Road to Santiago (Berkeley 1998).
Ian Reader & Tony Walter (eds.), Pilgrimage in Popular Culture (Basingstoke 1993).
V. Turner, “Pilgrimages as Social Processes”, in V. Turner, Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors. Symbolic Action in Human Society (Ithaca & Londen, 1974), 166-230.
D. Weinstein & R.M. Bell, Saints & Society.The Two Worlds of Western Christendom, 1000-1700 (Chicago 1982).
K. Rountree, “Performing the Divine: Neo-Pagan Pilgrimages and Embodiment at Sacred Sites”, Body & Society 12/4 (2006), 94-115.
A. Ivakhiv, “Nature and Self in New Age Pilgrimage”, Culture and Religion 4/1 (2003) 93-118.


Via uSis
In addition to the registration in uSis, students are also expected to self-enroll in Blackboard a few weeks before the course starts.

Prospective students of this course are advised to sign up by Blackboard at least two weeks before the program will start.



In case of an amount of participants lower than 4 the course will not take place.