Below is the abstract that I have submitted to the Association of American Geographers for their annual meeting in NYC, February 2012:
Mitch Rose (2010) invites us to see how “exteriorities invite us to take up our subjectivity in various meaningful forms” through an understanding of sacredness. For him, sacredness offers a way to listen: he suggests that we see his account of visitors to Egypt as much a method as formal empirical work. In an earlier paper, Slater (2004) notes that “few geographers speak as ‘insiders’ when writing about religious geography”. In both of these accounts of spirituality and religious understanding, we can see echoes of the sacred in the profane (Holloway, 2003). Sacred spaces are made of the materiality of the time-space we find ourselves in.
In this paper I highlight the features of Holloway’s sacred topologies where “embodied practices of the everyday that are sensed” are the sources of signification, focusing on everyday occurrences of spiritual practice in unfamiliar contexts. I walked eight days of the Camino de Santiago de Compostella last September. During this time, I tried to be both geographer-in-training and pilgrim, but found both difficult. Moving through sacred space, I faced unexpected physical and emotional demands. The purpose of my paper is to address Holloway’s suggestion that researching the sacred in the everyday brings about greater richness than confining research to ‘officially sacred’ places. Using fieldnotes and pictures, my paper proposes that geographies of religion and belief are still neglecting the everyday sacredness of embodied space.
It is a part of a session I am co-organising with Dr David Butler, University of Limerick entitled New perspectives on the geographies of religion and faith. Here’s a sense of the kind of thing I want to discuss: