Accepted Paper:

"I want to feel the Camino in my legs": trajectories of walking on the Camino de Santiago  


Keith Egan (National University of Ireland)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the existential dimensions of walking the Camino de Santiago for modern pilgrims re-inventing, and not just recovering, a medieval pilgrimage route as they reinvigorate their own life trajectories.

Paper long abstract:

In studying the body in religion, pilgrimage is a privileged site for contemplating embodiment and lived religion. Pilgrims buck the trend of dwindling numbers characterizing the recent decline in mainstream religious worship. The Camino de Santiago, once the third most popular shrine in Medieval Christianity, has reclaimed much of its previous glory. By adopting a phenomenological method, this paper contends, researchers can chart the boundaries along which pilgrims travel, exploring the edges of their faith and the ground of their being, wherein the body becomes a language in itself and walking a form of rhetoric, a 'strong poetics' (Harold Bloom). In the contemporary recovery of this pilgrimage route as therapeutic movement, I suggest, the 'suffering soul' can craft for itself a wounded body capable of manifesting the ills of a dimly perceived 'improvised life' (Clifford Geertz). Such a life, I conclude, does not require words to give it shape, but the immediacy of a body in the midst of struggle to give it direction.

Panel W011
Body and soul: on corporeality in contemporary religiosity