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Sacred landscapes, esoteric journeys: challenges of tourism, anthropology and spirituality in European and British contexts
Jenny Blain
Helen Cornish (Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Helen Cornish
Series G: Landscapes
Start time:
12 April, 2007 at 16:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel examines intersections of anthropology and 'spiritual tourism', including appropriations and contestations of 'otherworlds' and sacredness and implications of these for heritage management and anthropological enquiry. Concepts addressed include heterotopia, re-enchantment, and power.

Long abstract:

This panel examines intersections of anthropology and 'spiritual tourism', including appropriation of sacred landscapes, place, and materiality, in a context of increased Western interest in 'otherworlds', emergent religions, contested spaces, and a quest for re-enchantment.

Engagements with places and otherworlds may range from the thrills of a ghost walk or haunted house, to potentially-transformative experiences sought through journeying to pertinent graves or on personal quests and pilgrimage to sacred landscapes such as Avebury, Bru na Boine or Carnac (attracting various publics, some as 'spiritual tourists', some as guardians of place). Issues include tensions between commodification, rationalisation, conservation and sacredness, and contested interpretations of place and experience.

The development of 'new-indigenous' spiritualities based around landscape and esotericism, together with the globalisation of 'otherworld' tourism, raises challenges to theory and pragmatics within anthropology; as in areas of:

a) identity and spirituality, relating to places which are constituted by some as 'sacred', with that 'sacredness', or its relationship to movements of people within the landscape, challenged, contested or appropriated

b) tourism and consumption, and how these issues are represented by an anthropology that has been more concerned with travel over distances and with exotic differences, than with encounters closer to home.

Concepts indicated include: <i>heterotopia </i>as difference in inscription/ inscription of difference within place, with associated transformation; <i>re-enchantment</i> as quest for meaning through remembered or invented pasts; and power, in how layers of meaning inscribed in landscape or place become part of the politics of spirituality, 'heritage' and tourism today.