Key figure of mobility: the pilgrim
(Ben Gurion University of the Negev)
Paper short abstract:
For Bauman, the modern subject was a pilgrim, a builder of identity through progress towards a destination. Postmodernity is marked by the tourist, who seeks novelty and avoids commitment. But the pilgrim's challenge to the naturalness of dwelling may make him a paradigm of postmodernity.
Paper long abstract:
Zygmunt Bauman mobilizes the key figure of the pilgrim to divide between 'solid', modernity and 'liquid' postmodernity: "If the modern problem… was how to construct an identity and keep it solid and stable, the postmodern 'problem of identity' is primarily how to avoid fixation and keep the options open". He builds on Weber's description of the modern subject as an inner-worldly pilgrim, who can reflect on the road past and see it as a progress towards… The pilgrim lives in "a world in which footprints are engraved for good". Contemporary 'liquid' or post-modernity is inhospitable to pilgrims. There, the aim is not how to construct an identity, but how to keep it from sticking. Postmodernity is typified by the tourist, who seeks novelty and excitement, is fascinated with surfaces, horrified of being bound and fixed, and avoids all commitment. Other scholars focus on elided traits of the pilgrim: the openness to transformation, the uncertainties and risks of the voyage, the potential for communitas beyond ascribed statuses, the increase in antistructure as one approaches the sacred site (Turner), the centrality of bodily experience (Dubisch), and the transgressive mix of carnival, cathedral and market (Reader). Above all, the ideal of the sojourn challenges the naturalness of dwelling-in-place even for permanent pilgrims (Bawa Yamba). The roots of modern travel are firmly anchored in pilgrimage (Adler), and the growing numbers of contemporary pilgrims - many syncretistic, uncommitted, skeptical or adventure-seeking - have made the pilgrim a paradigm of postmodernity.
Key figures of mobility (ANTHROMOB)