Accepted paper:

Spiritual retreat tourism between India and Europe. Towards a phenomenology of life changing experiences

Authors:

Ellina Mourtazina (University of Lausanne)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing from a phenomenological study of spiritual retreat tourism in India, this paper aims to explore the way individuals spatialize and sacralize travel experience in its embodied and cognitive dimensions, during the episode of corporal journey - and within their daily life back home in Europe.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the emerging transnational phenomena of spiritual retreat tourism. Through a phenomenological approach on the articulations of the inner life worlds of people going on such retreat and their "outer" social and personal circumstances, I will demonstrate that spiritual retreat places and practices interlink key features of statis within mobility and inner journey within geographical motion. Drawing specifically on the case of Europeans travelling to northern India to participate in Buddhist retreats, I explore the way these subjects spatialize and sacralize their travel experience in its sensorial, embodied, cognitive and social dimension. Based on this data, I will show that individuals are guided in the first place by a quest for mythical enchantment (Giovine & Picard, 2015), a search for a cultural shock that lead to a change of consciousness (Hyndman-Rizk, 2012), a desire to gain necessarily tools for self-transformation; while once back home, the everyday social and spatial setting become a field of "opportunities" for spiritual practices. By enchanting familiar mindscapes, paying a particular attention to their embodied commitment to everyday lifeworld, by desiring to re-create a social community of Buddhist practice, individuals transform their everyday life by challenging their newly learned and embodied networks of believes and behaviors. The work contests the structural dichotomies of sacred centers/destinations and the space-time of corporal travel opposed to a presumably quotidian or everyday life at home and hence contributes to the body of poststructuralist anthropological literature that approaches tourism and pilgrimage as interconnected forms of im/mobities.

panel P099
Changing face of European pilgrimage [Pilgrimage Studies Network] I