Pilgrimage in the Marketplace  book cover
1st Edition

Pilgrimage in the Marketplace

ISBN 9781138647763
Published December 18, 2015 by Routledge
242 Pages

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Book Description

The study of pilgrimage often centres itself around miracles and spontaneous populist activities. While some of these activities and stories may play an important role in the emergence of potential pilgrimage sites and in helping create wider interest in them, this book demonstrates that the dynamics of the marketplace, including marketing and promotional activities by priests and secular interest groups, create the very consumerist markets through which pilgrimages become established and successful – and through which the ‘sacred’ as a category can be sustained.

By drawing on examples from several contexts, including Japan, India, China, Vietnam, Europe, and the Muslim world, author Ian Reader evaluates how pilgrimages may be invented, shaped, and promoted by various interest groups. In so doing he draws attention to the competitive nature of the pilgrimage market, revealing that there are rivalries, borrowed ideas, and alliances with commercial and civil agencies to promote pilgrimages. The importance of consumerism is demonstrated, both in terms of consumer goods/souvenirs and pilgrimage site selection, rather than the usual depictions of consumerism as tawdry disjunctions on the ‘sacred.’ As such this book reorients studies of pilgrimage by highlighting not just the pilgrims who so often dominate the literature, but also the various other interest groups and agencies without whom pilgrimage as a phenomenon would not exist.

Table of Contents

 1. Pilgrimages in Department Stores and Airport Malls: Modernity, Commerce and the Marketplace  2.Of Swans, Lakes and Constructions of the ‘Sacred'  3. Religious Authorities and the Promotion of Pilgrimages  4. Merchants, Transport, Guidebooks and the Democratisation of Pilgrimage  5. Pilgrims in the Marketplace: Shaping, Producing and Consuming Pilgrimage  6. Scrolls, Singing Toilet Roll Holders, Martin Luther’s Socks and Other Sacred Goods of the Marketplace  7. Strawberries, Camel Coolers and Luxury Hotels: Heritage, Hiking, Holidays and the Consumer Rebranding of Pilgrimage  8. Concluding Comments

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Ian Reader is Professor of Religious Studies at Lancaster University. He was previously Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester, and has worked at academic institutions in Japan, the UK, Denmark and Hawaii. His main research interests are on pilgrimage and on religion in the modern world.


In his inimitable style, Ian Reader, the most prominent and highly respected scholar of contemporary Japanese religion writing today, draws upon Japan’s vibrant traditions of pilgrimage to provide an important corrective to much scholarship on pilgrimage throughout the world that, until now, has focused primarily on the spirituality or sacredness of religious travel. Pilgrimage in the Marketplace is sure to shift the terms of discussion, helping readers understand the complex position of pilgrimage in our contemporary, consumer-oriented world.’Sarah Thal, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

‘This is a boldly written book which challenges assumptions about why pilgrimage seems so popular in the contemporary world.’Simon Coleman, University of Toronto, Canada

"[Reader] embeds [his] detailed knowledge…within a wider experience and study of pilgrimages the world over…Summing up: Recommended" -P.S. Spalding, Illinois College, USA in CHOICE

"Reader’s attempts to deconstruct the binary opposition between the sacred and the profane are exemplary. The examples he provides throughout the book urge us to think beyond the sacred/profane divide, and to analyze in details the intricate relationships between religion, economy, media, and tourism... Reader’s insights and rich ethnographical data are major contributions to our understanding of the fields of pilgrimage studies and religious studies as a whole." - François Thibeault, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

"In sum, this is a key work not only to learn something about contemporary pilgrimage, but also for pondering the larger theoretical issue of religion and secularization. It also highlights the importance theoretically of taking a comparative perspective, something that is rarely done as well as this volume in today’s scholarship."Mark MacWilliams, Religious Studies Review

"Reader has an easy-going, intelligible way of writing. Furthermore, he illustrates his explanations and descriptions with numerous pictures. Even for those readers not particularly familiar with Japan, he is able to make his general argument comprehensible and, at the same time, introduce a piece of Japanese culture to the reader. Due to its multilayered structure, Pilgrimage in the Marketplace is an insightful and entertaining monograph for scholars and students of anthropology, religion, economy, and Japanese studies. Owing to the author’s pleasant style, his work could easily find its way to your nightstand." - Cora Gäbel,Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft, 2017, Issue 1

"Ian Reader is a well-known specialist of religion in modern Japan and of pilgrimage in particular. His latest opus is a significant contribution not only to the study of pilgrimage, but also to contemporary religion in general." - François Gauthier, Université de Fribourg