Ritual, Performance, Media

Ritual, Performance, Media

Ritual, Performance, Media

Ritual, Performance, Media


Ritual, Performance and Media are significant areas of study which are essential to anthropology and are often surprisingly overlooked. This book brings a more anthropological perspective to debates about media consumption, performativity and the characteristics of spectacle which have transformed cultural studies over the past decade.


Simon Coleman and John Elsner

Walsingham is like a huge icon. It's almost like a Christian theme park, in which we set out the wares and then allow people to make of it what they will. And I think there's something about that which is very therapeutic: that they'll make the stations of the cross; they'll just come and sit in the shrine; they'll sit in the gardens; they'll go and light candles; they'll sit in the Holy House and just look at the image; they'll go for a walk up to the parish church; they'll go and visit the Orthodox chapel or they'll go and buy things in the shops to take home. All of that I think is very, very significant, because it's the best kind of spiritual direction, which actually allows a pilgrim to find his or her own way in what God offers…. And I think we just make available these resources, and people use them as they find best.

These are the words, spoken in an interview, of a priest at the Anglican shrine of Walsingham, north Norfolk. They indicate some of the elements he considers key to the performance of a successful pilgrimage: the sense, for instance, that a pilgrim must find a spiritual direction not only on the way to a sacred shrine, but also within the environs of the sacred space; the conviction, as well, that ritualized 'browsing', far from representing an heretical evasion of fixed liturgical structures, will have divinely sanctioned and therapeutic-even performative-effects.

Such attitudes might initially seem surprising because they come from a source hardly known for its encouragement of liturgical innovation. The Anglican shrine at Walsingham has the reputation within ecclesiastical circles of being a defender of old-style, High-Church principles, indicated as much by its continuation of unashamedly 'smells and bells' styles of ritual as by its apparently firm opposition to the ordination of women. In this chapter, however, we wish to argue that the priest has nevertheless identified an important aspect of much contemporary pilgrimage to Walsingham. We propose to examine the relationship between carrying out pilgrimage rituals and the cultivation of creativity in performance by exploring the ways in

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