On Ritual Risk, Lateral Participation, and Other Semiotic Hazards
BA Religion and Society International Annual Lecture
Within European Christianity, participation in local congregations is generally apathetic, with the exception of some of the newer charismatic churches. Pilgrimage sites, however, have never been more popular. My interest in juxtaposing these two trends has little to do with debates over the reality or otherwise of secularization, or even the benefits of transport infrastructures. I am much more concerned with what we can learn about current forms of ritual from examining what happens when seemingly uncommitted people go to pilgrimage sites—often unwillingly, and possibly dragged there by friends or family. Such scenarios are not peripheral to contemporary religious and ritual participation: they constitute a highly significant dimension of what happens at and around shrines.
My observations are based on long-term fieldwork at the pilgrimage site of Walsingham, North Norfolk, as well as a number of cathedrals around England. In exploring ritual behaviours that are generally ignored by researchers, I tell a story of how ritual becomes entangled with kinship, friendship, memories of childhood, and commemoration of the dead.
Simon Coleman is Chancellor Jackman Professor at the Department of the Study of Religion, University of Toronto. He is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion and co-editor of the journal Religion and Society. His research interests include Pentecostalism and pilgrimage and he has worked in Sweden, the UK, and Nigeria. Currently, he is working on the intersections between religious movements and urban infrastructures in Lagos. He is also completing a book on the contemporary study of pilgrimage. His most recent volume is the co-edited Pilgrimage and Political Economy: Translating the Sacred (2018).
Talk, Q&A and wine reception - refreshments will be provided.
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