Accepted paper:

'Transnational' spirituality and the 'sacred self': an ethnographic account of 'alternative' healing in southern Europe.


Eugenia Roussou (CRIA, ISCTE-IUL)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the role of transnational spirituality as a form of negotiating health and well-being, exploring how the (re)adaptation of diverse therapeutic routes lead to novel sociocultural transformations and the creation of a 'sacred self', through alternative healing.

Paper long abstract:

Despite a renewed interest in 'transnationalism' (Vertovec 2001), little attention has been paid on the sociocultural implications it has within the context of spiritual belonging and/or of spirituality as healing. Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork on 'New Age' spirituality and 'alternative' healing in southern Europe (Portugal, Greece), this paper will place emphasis on the role of transnational spirituality as a creative form of negotiating health, well-being and the creation of a 'sacred self'(Csordas 1997). Analytical attention will be cast upon people's everyday engagement with the sacred through different religio-spiritual traditions - such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Kardecian spiritism and (neo)shamanism - in an attempt to track the various itineraries or even dead-ends that are followed in their search for alternative forms of healing. The aim of this paper is to show how the sacred is approached through the implementation of transnational negotiations of spirituality and healing; how globalized spiritual traditions are adopted, adapted and re-adapted, creating a dynamic field of personal, spiritual, medical and sociocultural transformations; and how practices of different spiritual traditions are amalgamated in everyday therapeutic practices, creating novel forms of spiritual belonging and healing pathways, which are indicative of how people in Lisbon and Athens today approach their health, illness, trans/national identity and spirituality and the sacred in a sociocultural context that is moving towards new directions.

panel Reli04
Fluidity and transformation in contemporary religiosity: re-tracking the sacred in a changing world