Concepts on pilgrimage as a social process Essay Example
Concepts on pilgrimage as a social process Essay Example

Concepts on pilgrimage as a social process Essay Example

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  • Pages: 6 (1614 words)
  • Published: August 22, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The text explores how Turner's concepts of 'liminality' and 'communitas' shed light on pilgrimage as a social process. These concepts are described as being fleeting and intangible, much like a wisp of smoke in the wind. While there is an attempt to formalize the social process from a theoretical perspective, fully grasping the profound concept of pilgrimage proves to be a challenge academically.

In this text, Turner's constructs and their significance are discussed. Turner utilizes Van Gennep's theory of rites of transition, specifically the concept of liminality. Liminality is described as a state of being "neither here nor there" and being "betwixt and between" societal positions and norms. The essay aims to demonstrate how liminality relates to the societal process of a pilgrim's journey, examining the aspects of equality and communitas. The text questions whether


the construction of a pilgrim's journey is truly lost during the experience and explores the concept of a societal procedure. It ponders whether a pilgrim's journey aligns more with principles of equality and individualism or a structured formation or a societal experience. The "rite of transition" emphasizes that during the liminal phase, an individual does not belong to their previous group or their future group. An example of a typical liminal phase is seen in adolescence, where individuals are neither children nor adults - a personal pilgrimage for each individual.

In "Purity and Danger," Mary Douglas explores the concept of liminal periods and how they can be seen as times when individuals are considered to have no position or affiliation. This idea is also discussed in Turner V.'s work "The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Rite" (1967, p. ).

98) According

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to Turner (1967, p. 94), using Van Gennep's theoretical framework of the three stages of a ritual, the author depicts the ritual as a catalyst and embodiment of the transitional phase known as the liminal period. This liminal period is characterized by a separation from everyday life, aimed at removing the individual from society and compelling them towards an inner journey of personal growth.

The use of categorization is frequently applied, continuing the passage and removal of old individuality while indicating the position of passage. Turner further develops this concept by suggesting ambiguity, privacy, and not specifying the gender or category of the person. Turner proposes the equality of this transitional period, although some anthropologists hesitate to apply it universally as some societies still impose the formation of structure. (Turner V., 1967) Turner's three-stage concept is simple in theory but difficult in practice. Phase one involves communicating sacra, where secret symbols are conveyed to ritual participants through exhibits of sacred objects, actions, and instructions. These symbols represent the unity and continuity of the community.

This passage discusses the concept of "ludic deconstruction" and the subsequent recombination of the individual. Turner expands on this idea and introduces stage three, where all societal constructs are removed, leaving only the authority of the teacher and the purpose of the ritual (Turner V. E.).

Turner (1978) formalized the concept of Communitas as the designation of one, noting its connection to Anti-structure. According to Turner (1969), Communitas is present during a liminal phase when construction is absent. This period of liminality occurs within a ritual procedure, where all societal elements are removed and individuals are excluded. This exclusion creates a community bond, representing

the ritual communitas of individuals in a separate passage society. Turner further elaborates on communitas in the Ritual Process, explaining that it refers to two additional modes of society.

( Turner V. , Pilgrimage and communitas, 1974 ) A Dialectic procedure between various communitas, a general view of equality of individuals ( later works like Eade argue against this concept ) and that of the structured individuals in a hierarchical system such as in the Hindu faith. The Dialectic has been used throughout time such as in Revolutions and the "maximization of communitas provokes maximization of structure, which in turn produces radical efforts for renewed communitus". ( Turner V. , 1969, p.

According to Turner V. (1969, p. 129), Communitas is observed as a stage in a ritual procedure, rather than something that occurs after the procedure. It is believed that all forms of communitas will eventually diminish and fall into structure and law, after which a new form of communitas may arise again (Turner V., 1974, p. 282). The concept of pilgrimage and community are highly debated among scholars like Eade and Sallnow, who question the role of pilgrimage in either maintaining or contradicting societal structure.

According to Sallnow (1981), there is a contrast between the Marxist understanding of the pilgrim's journey as a structural care and Turner's construct of self-generated communitas. The treatment of the experience raises the question of whether it adheres to a larger construct of community. Eade and Coleman (1991, p.5) note that the field of anthropology lacked a deep focus on the pilgrim's journey until Turner's work, "Image and Pilgrimage in Christian Culture," and that when formalizing constructs on the pilgrim's journey,

there tends to be a focus on powerful religious rites rather than the everyday rituals. They argue that pilgrim's journey has been neglected due to the belief that it is inherently liminal and distinct from daily life, suggesting that a pilgrim's journey is usually something extraordinary, like a pilgrimage to Mecca or a holy shrine. However, it can be proposed that the simplistic idea of traveling in search of new places or a job can also be considered a pilgrimage for individuals, as it involves a transition from one state to another, entering a liminal phase where they are neither in their previous persona nor fully into the new entity.

(Eade, 2004) According to Turner, individual accounts such as "documents or oral narratives of the personal experiences" allow us to imagine the social process of a pilgrim's journey. He suggests that even though a pilgrim's journey may be an internal one between the divine or a social community and Mecca, it is still a social process. The social process of pilgrimage is based on symbolic and structural elements, which are particularly important when considering the presence or absence of "structure," "anti-structure," "communitas," and "liminality" (Turner V., 1974) (Turner V., Pilgrimage and communitas, 1974). Turner defines structure as "a more or less regular arrangement of mutually dependent institutions and the institutional organization of social positions and/or actors that they imply".

(Turner V., 1974, p. 272) Therefore, in pilgrimages such as Muktinath in Nepal, societal relations such as caste contribute to the formation of "distance and inequality" (Turner V., 1974, p. 272) (Edwards, 1972). "That religious pilgrimage serves to highlight social norms specific to a particular religious system" (Messerschmidt,

1980). Turner's work primarily focused on the Christian foundations of a pilgrimage; consequently, "communitas behavior was expected...".

Turner (1978) argues that the built-in rules and idealistic outlooks of Hinduism contradict the hierarchical nature of Hindu society. However, this contradiction is enforced through structured formation during a pilgrim's journey. This example illustrates how Turner's constructs of liminality and communitas do not consistently manifest in all religious pilgrimages. Nevertheless, the role of structure still plays a part in this specific pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage does not inherently maintain or remove the structure, but instead strengthens the bonds between the individual and a symbolic community, according to Starke and Finke. Therefore, although Messerchmidt suggests that the structure is within the liminal phase and later communitas does not exist, it could suggest that the achieved symbolic bond later creates a communitas that exists in a larger place (Stark, 2000). If we examine the Hajj, one of the largest and most well-known religious pilgrimages to date, it brings pilgrims back into "the time of the Prophets and into the utopian-like society that previously existed". This pilgrimage is international, as members of Islam ascend Mecca to accomplish a once-in-a-lifetime connection to a religious community. It is an individual pilgrimage, but also a social process that will forever be linked to history. With the concept of communitas, one could further suggest that by connecting with a religious holy place, one is not only linking to a communitas of the present but also that of the past and future. If all are equal at this period of time and structure, then communitas transcends time.

(McCarter, 2005) Turner's theories of "liminality" and "communitas" shed light on the social process

of a pilgrim's journey in certain concepts. It is apparent that Turner primarily focused his research on a Christian perspective, but he also implied that other spiritual pilgrimages do not have the removal of structure during the liminal phase, thus resulting in the transposition of the inherent structure from pre- to post-formations of the individual. When questioning the extent to which Turner's theories shed light, it can be metaphorically seen that Turner has been a guiding force in the development of anthropology of pilgrimage, but as other theories develop, Turner's theories will inevitably illuminate others. However, as modern development diminishes the need for guiding forces, Turner's concepts no longer stand alone in theories of social process and pilgrimage. Turner demonstrates that ritual is a response to a society's needs but is actively involved in human interaction and meaning. His actions and theories are far from being "inactive".

According to Deflem (1991), the findings of John Eade's new research also support the idea within Turner's constructs that the concept of a pilgrim's journey is not an everyday process. Once again, this challenges the usual notions of a pilgrim's journey. It can be observed that the common social understanding of a pilgrimage is that it is a spiritual one, involving the search for divine inspiration and the belief that miracles that occurred in the past can still happen again (Turner V. E., 1978, p. 6).

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