Call 7: Processions, Pilgrimages and the Senses

Sensory experience is an important aspect of the process mediation between the physical and metaphysical worlds. This is not the least true for processions and pilgrimages which are marked by a certain hospitality to sensation since they directly involve the body of the devotee. Through the appeal of the body and the senses, ritual, drama and even folklore direct the religious practices,  invest particular actions with meaning and engage with the imaginative and emotional lives of the multitude. Hence sensory experience and religious decorum are important in the creation of a dynamic relationship between the individual and the sacred.

In this session, we would like to investigate the ways in which mediations of religion resonate with the body, the senses, and the lived experience of the pilgrim. Particular attention will be paid to the variety of sensory experience including the official decorum surrounding the religious and liturgical gestures as well as the popular-cultural potentialities of the religious scene.

Themes and questions may include, but are not restricted to:

– Concerning pilgrimages and processions: What is the added value of religious decorum in the sensory experience of the devotee? How are they perceived in a period of growing secularization?

– Continuities, ruptures and changes in the practices and debates concerning sense experience and their influence on the use of religious decorum in processions: What are the different types of decorum used in processions and pilgrimages, what is their origin and how are they adapted to a particular time and place? What was the role of censorship and sensorial discipline (e.g. during the Counter-Reformation)? How did they alter magical practices, or redraw the lines between licit and illicit manipulations of the sacred, and how did this affect medieval processions and pilgrimages?

– Relationship between the devotion of the saint and the peripheral festivities surrounding the procession: How does decorum and sensory experience mediate between the liturgical and the popular-cultural potentialities of the religious scene, and how do both influence each other? Is the procession and its religious decorum consistently related to devotion, or is it sometimes shaped by other secular (traditional) practices?