Sacred Journeys: Moving in, out and around sacred spaces

Closes:

Overview

Even while the Earth sleeps, we travel

Khalil Gibran

Humanity’s insatiable thirst for travel has been recorded across the disciplinary spectrum for millennia, from historical accounts of the brave explores of our past, to anthropological, zoological, and botanical records of seemingly exotic worlds and cultures. Artists, poets, writers sought to capture in their output the breath-takingness of these new worlds for others’ delight, becoming the storytellers of these far-away lands. Once reserved for the elite, the nomadic, or the bellicose wishing to conquer new terrain, travel now lies much more within our reach, making us all the storytellers of our journeying.  Odysseys get narrated through our blogs, our online reviews, our Facebook stories, and our Instagram feeds, as we share the journeys we take through life for all to see.  

The pursuit of the sacred is one such journey, which feeds both the explorer and the pilgrim that dwells within us all (Cousineu, 2012). How and why we pursue sacred journeys has been at the heart of a plethora of research, not least in marketing and consumer behaviour (Rinallo and Oliver, 2019). We have heard tales of slowing down as a means of spiritual renewal (Huseman and Eckhardt, 2019), of enduring pain and the gift of communal healing (Cova and Cova, 2019), of the sharing our affective responses with (equally vulnerable) others as a means of emotional recovery (Higgins and Hamilton, 2018), and of a spiritual awakening that shapes who we are (Moufahim, 2016; Moufahim and Lichrou, 2019). Even before our arrival, we paint a detailed picture of these sacred journeys through the shared storytelling of fellow travellers (van Laer and Izberk-Bilgin, 2019). As well as unidirectional, moving to and from sacred spaces, our spiritual journeys may be cyclical, mercurial, and driven by multi-faith experimentation as we transit across the varied religious landscape in search of spiritual solutions for our material problems (Rodner and Preece, 2019). Others experience religiosity as a toing and froing between the sacred and the profane within a confined geographic space, as they negotiate the liminality of their (religious) identity (Appau et al., 2020). Beyond the realm of consumer culture, anthropological and psychological accounts of spirit possession are tale telling of how a medium’s body can house the sacred, even without the need to physically displace ourselves (Maraldi, 2014; Seligman, 2014), so that the body acts as a permeable space through which the sacred travels.   

As well as embodying the sacred, we have also seen how materiality plays a part in our sacred journeys (Higgins and Hamilton, 2020), where objects, souvenirs, and gifts evidence their material and spiritual agency as they travel with us to and from these sacred locations (Moufahim, 2013; Santana and Botelho, 2019; Turley, 2013). Brought into our homes, carefully curated objects get transformed into shrines, whereby the sacred comes to us rather than us travelling to it (Espirito Santo, 2019).

Sacred journeys, however, are not restricted to traditionally religious destinations, such as the renowned pilgrimage sites of Mecca, Lourdes, El Camino de Santiago, and Varanasi. Instead, the pilgrim within us seeks sacred experiences in a multitude of spiritual settings, from locations commonly associated with the occult (Rinallo et al., 2016), to ancient histories and esoteric myths (Scott and Maclaran, 2013) and even shamanic travel in the depth of the Amazon jungle (Dean, 2019). As the mundane becomes sacralised (Belk et al., 1989), we see how the market carves out new sites of pilgrimage, including Christian theme parks (O’Guinn and Belk, 1989), holy-land simulations (Crockett and Davis, 2016), shrines for celebrity culture (Frow, 1998; Graves-Brown, and Orange, 2017), commodified sites for experiencing dark tourism (Sun and Lv, 2021) or (re)enchantments of our past (Goulding et al, 2018) as well as venues of counter-culture that act as a respite from our commercial world (Kozinets, 2002). Recent Netflix docuseries, such as (un)well (2020), are a testimony of our hunger for something sacrosanct in the market, as consumers search for healing if not enlightenment from an array of products and services from bee venom to extreme fasting.

Within this shadow of work on the consumption of religious, spiritual, and sacralised spaces, our call for papers homes in on varying aspects of mobility and the sacred, unravelling the sacred in consumer culture. In the wake of the global pandemic, our CfP is particularly timely, as we have had to rethink,

  • how we now navigate spaces and embark on spiritual journeys
  • how our mobility to sacred has been thwarted in light of travel restrictions 
  • how the market has adapted (sacred) spaces for our (safe) consumption
  • how we embody (or disembody) the marketplace

What does our embodied experience of sacred spaces look and feel like when done remotely? Or with distancing measures in place? In a world where our mobility has changed significantly – how do we research religious tourism in times of Covid19? And what will the future bring – as fears of new variants loom and government restrictions get imposed? With the digitisation of institutions – from HE to religion – there come new debates on religion’s influence on sustainability (El Jurdi et al. 2017), along with a growing call for accountability for sustainable consumption, including religious travel. With the emergence of green pilgrimage (Elgammal and Alhothali, 2021), the issue of mobility (or lack of it) and the sacred needs to be fleshed out further. In the pursuit of quenching our thirst for travel, despite forces beyond our control, our CfP aims to capture these new, important social trends in the realm of religious and also secular journeys.

We welcome empirical and conceptual work exploring the issue of mobility, religious/spiritual consumption including travel and pilgrimage, the sacralisation of spaces/geographies through rituals and consumption, marketing of sacred spaces and forms of (dark) tourism. Multidisciplinary approaches and research contexts from the global north and global south are welcome. The journal welcomes all forms of research underpinned by qualitative methodologies and interpretive paradigms, including studies shaped by ethnographic accounts, introspection, visual methods, and poetic inquiry, to name but a few. 

Including the key questions spelled out above, topics for this special issue could include the following:

  • Mobility and travel including access to sacred space and the (im)possibility to travel
  • Space and the body – corporeal mobility and spiritual agency
  • Rituals associated with religious travel
  • The transformation of space through rituals, e.g. sacralisation of spaces and places
  • Material geographies and the sacred  
  • Overtourism and the Sustainability agenda of religious travel
  • Digitisation of sacred spaces

Submission Requirements and Information

Inquiries can be directed to the special issue co-editors:

Mona Moufahim  [email protected] ; Victoria Rodner [email protected] and Houdaida El Jurdi [email protected]

Submissions should follow the manuscript format guidelines for QMR found at: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/journal/qmr?id=qmr

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available at: https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/qmr 

Submission deadline: 19 April 2022

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