Details of Thesis

Title Two Australian Pilgrimages
Author Hannaford, John
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2001
Abstract In a time of rapid social change pilgrimages are resurfacing as significant and visible social phenomena. Australia has historically been noted as a very secular society but in recent years there has been some scholarly attention to forms of spirituality outside of the orthodox, Church religion. In matters of national identity and commitment to place it is argued that there could be an upsurge in spirituality, in contrast to the decline of those practising formal religion. In this dissertation it is argued that two journeys undertaken by contemporary Australians can be considered true pilgrimages with spiritual dimensions and are therefore part of a growing spirituality apart from formal Church. A survey of the theological and anthropological literature about pilgrimages allowed the development of an eight-point frame of criteria that could be used as a standard against which an assessment of contemporary journeys could be made. Pilgrimage is a non-local physical journey to a historically and or mythically significant site or shrine that embodies the centre of a person’s most valued ideals. These ideals may or may not be theistic but must be portrayed within the limits of the culture. The shrine casts an image of the culture and has an expert shrine custodian, but has the capacity to absorb a multiplicity of discourses. Pilgrims go to a shrine to experience the place of past events, take home spiritual traces and to model a changed or improved future. In order to apply this frame to two Australian journeys, field trips were made to the plaster image of Mary at Our Lady of Yankalilla Church in South Australia and to Gallipoli in Turkey around the Anzac Day commemorations in 2000. Participant observations and interviews with six key informants, when considered in association with the historical context and media reports, provided ‘thick description’ of the behaviour at the journey destinations and insight into participants’ experiences, motives and understandings. Both journeys, the sacred and ostensibly secular, satisfied the frame of criteria for a pilgrimage. Furthermore they may also exemplify some features that are distinctively Australian, in that in these pilgrimages spontaneity and egalitarianism jostled against bureaucratic structures and national hierarchies.
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