Geographies of religion and spirituality: pilgrimage beyond the ‘officially’ sacred

Michael A. Di Giovine, Jaeyeon Choe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The papers in this special issue, Geographies of Religion and Spirituality: Pilgrimage beyond the ‘Officially Sacred,’ are placed in the context of a comprehensive theoretical overview of the role that the sacred plays in shaping, conducting, controlling, and contesting pilgrimage. As scholarship examining the lived experiences of travelers has demonstrated, pilgrimages need not necessarily be religious in nature, nor be officially sanctioned. Rather, if pilgrimages are perceived as ‘hyper-meaningful’ by the practitioner, the authors in this special issue argue that a common denominator of all of these journeys is the perception of sacredness—a quality that is opposed to profane, everyday life. Separating the social category of ‘religion’ from the ‘sacred,’ these articles employ an interdisciplinary approach to theorize sacredness, its variability, and the ways in which it is officially recognized or condemned. Thus, the authors pay particular attention to the authorizing processes that religious and temporal power centers employ to either promote, co-opt, or stave off, such popular manifestations of devotion, focusing on three ways: through tradition, text or institutionalized norms. Referencing examples from across the globe, and linking them to the varied contributions in this special issue, this introduction complexifies the ways in which pilgrims, central authorities, locals and other stakeholders on the ground appropriate, negotiate, shape, contest, or circumvent the powerful forces of the sacred. Delving ‘beyond the officially sacred,’ this collective examination of pilgrimages, both well-established and new; religious and secular; authorized and not; the contributions to this special issue, as well as this Introduction, examines the interplay of a transcendent sacred for pilgrims and tourists so as to provide a blueprint for how work in the geography of religion and the fields of pilgrimage and religious tourism may move forward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-383
Number of pages23
JournalTourism Geographies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • pilgrimage
  • spirituality
  • Religion
  • religious tourism
  • sacred sites
  • spiritual travel


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