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Pilgrimage and ancestors: the importance of return

Journal article
Authors Jörgen Hellman
Published in The International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage
Volume 7
Issue 4
Pages 1-10
ISSN 2009-7379
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Global Studies, Social Anthropology
Pages 1-10
Language en
Keywords pilgrimage; return; West Java; ancestors
Subject categories Social Anthropology


Drawing on ethnographic material from pilgrimages on West Java I argue that understandings of pilgrimage will benefit from including the return home in order to fully appreciate the meaning it holds for pilgrims. If we include into the study an extensive period after coming home, it facilitates situating the practice in a specific socio-cultural context and helps to understand how a pilgrimage partakes in these settings rather than being a ‘ “one off” transient and extraordinary’ event (Reader 2005:249). The meaning of pilgrimage described in the paper is formed by deep seated cultural notions about ancestors and descent. In the paper this perspective is used to describe how a moral community founded upon shared experiences of pilgrimage and contact with ancestors emerged after the pilgrims returned home and how it sidestepped formal religious and political leadership.

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