Lena Gemzöe: "Pilgrimage as cultural critique"

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken - Eng3-2028; Campus Gotland B-43 through video
  • Organiser: Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
  • Contact person: Susann Baez Ullberg, Don Kulick
  • Seminarium

The Research Seminar in Cultural Anthropology

Lena Gemzöe, Stockholm University: "Pilgrimage as cultural critique. Ecology, health and gender in Swedish pilgrimage."

Since the end of the 1990s, a wave of interest in walking pilgrimages has surged in Sweden. Swedes join the international community of pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain, or they participate in the development of a vernacular pilgrimage movement led by the Church of Sweden. In my interpretation of the Swedish pilgrimage movement, that I have studied for the last decade, I have emphasized the elasticity of pilgrimage, i.e. its capacity to absorb or encompass a range of social forms. In this presentation, I will discuss the ways in which pilgrimage is intertwined with current social trends, such as a health and fitness culture, changing gendered modes of being, and an engagement with sustainability and the preservation of nature, recently drawn upon by the Church of Sweden, explicitly linking pilgrimage walks to ecology. How are these themes expressed and understood in Swedish pilgrimage, and in what ways, if any, are they bearers of a political, cultural or religious critique in contemporary Sweden? In my discussion, I will tie into recent academic debates on the return of religion and suggest how the study of pilgrimage and feminist approaches to the study of religion can bring vital insights to these debates.