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|Title:||Where Heaven Touched Earth: Encountering Place and Person at Lourdes|
|Advisor:||Badone, Ellen E.F.|
|Abstract:||Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with pilgrims travelling from the United Kingdom to the Marian Catholic shrine of Lourdes in south-western France, this study examines the experience of contemporary pilgrims to Lourdes and the motivations that inspire them to visit the shrine. As a pilgrimage site that now attracts an estimated six million visitors each year from a diverse range of geographical, social, and religious departure points, the motivations inspiring pilgrims to visit Lourdes can be elusive and disparate. From volunteer caregivers striving to “be as Christ” through their assistance to sick pilgrims, to first-time visitors to Lourdes navigating the shrine through the camera lens of a Hollywood film, this study moves through a wide range of pilgrim experiences. While such experiences underscore the inherently multivalent nature of pilgrimage, I show how the trope of authenticity emerges as a rhetorical device that recurs frequently in the narratives and discourse of pilgrims who undertake the journey to Lourdes. Experiences described by pilgrims as “authentic” are critical in informing their engagement with the geography of the shrine and with fellow pilgrims, and often inspire return visits to Lourdes in subsequent years. In dialogue with studies on pilgrimage and other forms of travel, I argue that despite its conceptual baggage authenticity still matters, and offers a useful heuristic lens for exploring those factors which shape and determine the experience of pilgrims to Lourdes. I suggest that from the perspective of pilgrims, Lourdes is a “thin space” where heaven touched earth and which affords the authentic possibility of transcendence, of collapsing the boundaries between self and other, human and divine.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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|Agnew PhD Thesis Final.pdf||4.09 MB||Adobe PDF||View/Open|
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