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Title: Living the liminal : facilitating pilgrimage on the Isle of Iona
Author: Chew, Michelle Wu-Hwee
ISNI:       0000 0000 5280 7536
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis spotlights a social group pilgrimage site staff heretofore neglected in anthropological research. The main subjects are the Resident Group ('ressies') working at the lona Community's guest centres. Based on an accumulative 16-month fieldwork, the ethnographic evidence challenges the assumptions that pilgrims' 'sacred' encounters are unmediated, that site staff passively acquiesce with the dominant ideology, and that the production of pilgrimage experience is unproblematic. Building on existing paradigms of pilgrimage as 'contested', 'movement'-oriented, and a form of'practice', the Turners' classic view of pilgrimage as rite de passage is deployed to show that 'place' and 'landscape' are key themes in people's understanding of and engagement with this ancient pilgrimage isle today. Part I lays the theoretical and methodological groundwork and introduces the research locale, locating it within recent Celtic revivalisms. It also addresses how the lona Community (ressies' employers) situate their religio-political vision within the wider sociological and theological contexts of contemporary British Christianity. Part II recounts the historical and contemporary formulations of lona pilgrimage and tourism. A Heideggerian perspective of 'dwelling' illuminates how devotees appropriate lona's 'sacred' geography as a resource for personal revelation and self- transformation. Ethnographic accounts of visitors' 'Iona experience' are provided as a comparative foil to the site staff who enable this distinctive pilgrimage encounter. Part III explores ressies' motivations, discourses, and experiences at lona as a locus of 'holistic' work (and worship). It elucidates their complex relationship with the lona Community and how ressies contest their idealised corporate identity. Van Gennep's concept of 'liminality' and Ardener's 'paradox of remote places' emerge as central themes in analysing ressies' 'betwixt and between' 'selves'. An investigation of the social and ideological structures of the Resident Group setup as a 'total institution' further reveals the impact of the 'leaving lona' rhetoric and reality upon ressies' post-Iona lives.
Supervisor: Barnes, Robert Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Employees ; Christian pilgrims and pilgrimages ; Scotland ; Iona