Chapter

The Power of the Less Powerful

Catrien Notermans

in Powers

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780823231560
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823231560.003.0012

Series: The Future of the Religious Past

The Power of the Less Powerful

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This chapter explains how a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, empowers the less powerful. Combining anthropology of religion with narrative theory of memory, it analyzes how pilgrims to Lourdes narrate and reenact painful and nostalgic memories related to their illnesses as well as their family histories. The religious symbolism of human suffering and distress at Lourdes becomes a vocabulary for the pilgrims to narrate and experience their pain, make it public, and reclaim the power denied to them. By remembering painful events as well as good health and happy moments in their lives, pilgrims are able to connect past, present, and future and to experience continuity and wholeness after periods of powerlessness, discontinuity, and loss. This study of the pilgrimage to Lourdes from the perspective of the pilgrims and the power relations in which they are involved shows how the journey facilitates the making of painful and nostalgic memories and brings about emotional healing and empowerment.

Keywords: Lourdes; pilgrimage; pilgrims; power relations; memory; religion; human suffering; powerlessness; empowerment; emotional healing

Chapter.  6352 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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