Educational Pilgrims. Transnational Mobility of Music Students between Asia and Europe.
Hsin-yi Li (Heidelberg University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper seeks to conceptualize a specific pattern of student mobility as "educational pilgrimage". Using an ethnography of Taiwanese music students in Germany, it analyses individual experiences and cultural imaginaries against the backdrop of recent anthropological theories of pilgrimage.
Paper long abstract:
When researching on pilgrimage, we are confronted with multiple cultural practices of mobility, which often, but not always, have a religious background. Alan Morinis defined pilgrimage as "a journey undertaken by a person in quest of a place or a state that he or she believes to embody a valued ideal" (Morinis 1992). Taking this definition as a starting point, the case of Taiwanese music students in Europe can serve as an interesting example for pilgrimage studies. It demonstrates how boundaries between student mobility and pilgrimage are sometimes blurred. Identifying themselves as musicians practicing "Western classical music", these East Asian students are often confronted with discourses about being "Asian" and therefore being unable to "authentically" play "Western" classical music. As a result, the students seek to find the "culturally authentic" way of playing music by studying at the place of "origin". Based on an ethnography of Taiwanese music students, which I conducted from 2010 to 2016, this paper examines how "Europe" has become a "sacred site" of studying music for these international students from East Asia - in contrast to the learning environment at "home". It illustrates how pilgrimage plays a role in different transnational strategies of music students. By highlighting the spatiotemporal liminality which these students have created for themselves through studying abroad, I furthermore demonstrate how this specific cultural pattern of motivation affects their everyday routines and their experiences abroad, and how these transcultural experiences, in turn, empower them to "disenchant" the mystique of the origin they once believed in.
Changing face of European pilgrimage [Pilgrimage Studies Network] I