A Relational View of Pilgrimage: Movements, Materials, and Affects

Author(s): Benjamin Skousen

Year: 2017


In this paper I discuss three tenets of what I call a relational view of pilgrimage. Overall, this perspective sees pilgrimage as a means through which people, things, places, and more move and converge in ways that instigate what Eliade (1959) called "hierophanies." The first tenet is that movement is crucial – indeed, the nature of a pilgrimage depends on what, where, and how entities (human and non-human) move and assemble. The second is that objects and landscapes (e.g., relics, offerings, shrines, monuments) have histories and vitalities that influence these journeys. The final tenet is that pilgrimages are uniquely affective – they impact the senses, emotions, and sensibilities in ways that other activities do not.

I explore this perspective and these particular ideas – movements, materials, and affects – through a narrative of the pilgrimage shrine at Lourdes, France. This example shows that a relational view encourages archaeologists to move beyond identifying pilgrims’ traces and relying on functional and structural theories; it also enlivens, enriches, and better conveys the complexity of a pilgrimage. Perhaps most importantly, it illustrates that archaeology, with its focus on materials and space, has much to contribute to studies of pilgrimage.

Cite this Record

A Relational View of Pilgrimage: Movements, Materials, and Affects. Benjamin Skousen. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430766)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14969