Alex Norman (“the Tourism Guy”) lectures at the Department of Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney, where he completed his doctorate in 2010. His central research interests revolve around the confluence of travel practices and religious practices. His book Spiritual Tourism (Continuum 2011) examines the intersection of travel and secular spiritual practice by contemporary Westerners. His other main research interest is in new religious movements, and in 2012 he co-edited the Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production (Brill 2012) with Carole M. Cusack. From 2010 to 2013 Alex was co-editor of Literature & Aesthetics, culminating in a special issue examining travel and literature published in 2012. His latest research project looks at the various ways in which travel events and traditions have impacted the formation of new religious movements.
The reasons people might go on what they call ‘a pilgrimage’ are complex. Amusement may be as important as communion, escape from everyday life as important as prayer. But, and this is an important point that does not come up in the interview, they may not be the reasons a person may give when asked by fieldworking scholars. That we now understand that people undertake pilgrimages for more than pious reasons has been one of the most significant advances in ‘pilgrimage studies’ to date.
Not long after I arrived home following the 2013 CESNUR conference, having spent some forty-odd hours door-to-door flying from Sweden to Australia, I tweeted “Great conference, beautiful country, lovely people”. The lengthy transit (dare I say ‘pilgrimage’) usually involved in making one’s way to CESNUR from the Antipodes is never too much to bear, for despite being small the conference is always one filled with enthusiastic colleagues ...
What would you think if I told you I had just come back from a holiday in Aya Napa? How about Santiago de Compostella or Glastonbury? How about Mecca? When does travel become pilgrimage, and what are the spiritual factors behind our holiday choices? In this week’s interview, Alex Norman and David Robertson discuss the history and modern relevance of journeys undertaken for spiritual benefit and transformation.
Publish, or be damned! But the world of publishing can be esoteric, especially the cloistered world of academic publishing. In this special roundtable discussion, recorded during the 2012 Australian Association for the Study of Religion annual conference, Zoe Alderton leads a group of academics with experience of all levels of academic publishing in a discussion which aims to demystify the process.