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Pilgrims and travellers in search of


the holy
ARTICLE in JOURNAL OF HERITAGE TOURISM AUGUST 2011
DOI: 10.1080/1743873X.2011.601883

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1 AUTHOR:
Amos S. Ron
Ashkelon Academic College
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Journal of Heritage Tourism


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Pilgrims and travellers in search of the


holy
Amos S. Ron
a

Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, Israel

Available online: 14 Dec 2011

To cite this article: Amos S. Ron (2011): Pilgrims and travellers in search of the holy, Journal of
Heritage Tourism, 6:3, 265-266
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1743873X.2011.601883

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Journal of Heritage Tourism


Vol. 6, No. 3, August 2011, 265 266

BOOK REVIEW

Downloaded by [Emek Hayarden College] at 01:17 19 December 2011

Pilgrims and travellers in search of the holy, edited by Rene Gothoni, Oxford, Peter
Lang, 2010, xii + 306 pp., E45.20 (pbk), ISBN 978-0-0343-0161-9
This book is an edited volume from a symposium of the same name, held at the University
of Helsinki in 2008. The search for the holy has always been an important human desire that
had generated both tourist activity and academic research in various disciplines, including
comparative religion, anthropology and geography. This interesting volume explores these
issues mainly from the point of view of comparative religion and cultural studies, and is
very rich and varied in its ethnography.
The book is quite unique and, despite the large number of publications on pilgrimage
and search of the holy, it is quite incomparable to other scholarly publications in this
eld. The book comprises an introduction by the editor and two additional parts: Theoretical
Aspects of Pilgrimage Studies (four chapters) and Case Studies of Buddhist and Hindu
Sites (nine chapters). The theoretical part elaborates on universal aspects of pilgrimage
and travel, whereas the empirical part focuses on examples from West Bengal, China,
India, Japan, Russia and Tibet.
This volume is well written and interesting, but presents a number of scientic editorial
aws, the rst one being the title (Pilgrims and Travellers in Search of the Holy), which is
very broad. Since most of the book is about case studies from Asia, a subtitle in this direction would have been helpful. The second editorial problem is in the theoretical section. Out
of the four chapters, only two are purely theoretical (Gothonis Pilgrimage: Three Theoretical Interpretations and Colemans Pilgrimage and the Blessings of Place-making:
Reections on and Beyond the Anthropology of Pilgrimage), while the remaining two
are in fact case studies within the context of Christianity. These two chapters (Christenssons In Search of Learning and Holiness: Scandinavians Going Abroad from the
Middle Ages to the Present and Rahkalas In the Sphere of the Holy: Pilgrimage to a
Contemporary Greek Convent) are interesting and rich in historical and contemporary
ethnographical data, but are limited in their theoretical discussion and contribution.
The third editorial problem is the absence of a concluding chapter. After taking the
readers on a fascinating journey through Scandinavia, Greece, Russia and large parts of
Asia, over a period of hundreds of years, one would expect some concluding remarks
that compare the various case studies and elaborate on the common themes. While such
a concluding chapter is usually not found in conference proceedings, a meaningful and
comprehensive conclusion is what distinguishes a good edited volume from conference
proceedings.
The book has a few color photographs (inserted between pp. 182 and 183), which help
familiarize the reader with the sites mentioned, but these photographs are not mentioned in
the text, and are presented separately, and as a result the reader suddenly bumps into these
photographs long after reading about the sites. Photographs are texts as well and, as such,

ISSN 1743-873X print/ISSN 1747-6631 online


DOI: 10.1080/1743873X.2011.601883
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266

Book review

can make an important contribution to conventional written texts; provided they are
analyzed and interpreted in the text itself, of course.
One of the most interesting sections is Rahkalas chapter on pilgrimage to a contemporary Greek convent located in a city in northern Greece. Most of the pilgrims described there
are local Greek Orthodox women who live nearby and visit the convent on a regular basis.
The terms pilgrimage and proskynima that are used by Rakhala are insufcient to
describe a routinized short visit to a nearby sacred place, and I would argue that what
we have here is in fact a form of spiritual leisure activity.
This book is very scholastic and, as such, its readership will most likely be scholars and
students of comparative religion, anthropology and cultural studies. I would like to conclude
with a few words on the nature of inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary dialogues. This
volume deals greatly with heritage and with tourism to meaningful places of heritage, yet
these two words are absent from the text, while the words history, religion, culture,
pilgrimage and journey are used instead. The disciplinary backgrounds of the authors
are history, anthropology, comparative religion, and culture; their geographical background
is mainly northern European; and their specic and, in my view, limited choice of words
suggests that there is a need for a greater scientic dialogue between the academic disciplines.
Amos S. Ron
Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, Israel
Email: amosron@gmail.com
# 2011, Amos S. Ron