Pilgrimage and Power

Robert R. Bianchi

in Guests of God

Published in print September 2004 | ISBN: 9780195171075
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835102 | DOI:
 Pilgrimage and Power

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Debates over the politics of pilgrimage revolve around three key questions. Do pilgrimages tend to fall under the control of entrenched authorities–secular and religious–or do they remain independent social movements inherently hostile to hierarchy and hegemony? Do pilgrimages encourage universal and egalitarian identities or do they harden parochial loyalties already dividing nations, sects, and social groups? And are modernization and globalization destroying pilgrimages or making them more vigorous than ever–reducing them to quasi-secular tourism or turning them into truly worldwide expressions of spiritual revivals? Although there is truth in both explanations, Western narrators tend to view the hajj as a bulwark of the status quo whereas Muslims overwhelmingly see it as embodying irrepressible demands for equality and universal community–a vision that inevitably contradicts parochial identities, including nationalism.

Keywords: equality; universal community; hierarchy; nationalism; status quo; hegemony

Chapter.  4688 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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