Journey geographies – a paper for the AAG

Here is the introduction to my written paper for the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. I’m off to NYC soon and I thought a taster of the full paper today might be of interest. I’ve submitted this for the David E. Sopher Award in advance and I know that there is a small number of other entries this year. Sending it into this competition has been useful because it meant concretising my thoughts and structuring the visual presentation in advance of the deadline. For the first time I am going to use Prezi, but not because it is inherently better than PowerPoint; but because I planned the presentation on paper before fingers went to keyboard. This is a great help and I really recommend it. I sat down with some post its, wrote my main ideas on these and then ordered them. I then went to Prezi and not before I was happy with the flow of the information. Here’s the introduction:

“I took the bus from Logrono to Pamplona the day after I finished my 8th and final stage of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. I was spending a night in Pamplona before meeting my partner in the coastal city of Donostia. The stopping bus, because I was not on a tight schedule and because it was much cheaper, came off the main road and went through each of the towns during this two hour journey. Viana, Los Arcos, Estella and Puente de la Reina: names that now had more significance to me because I had spent the previous week walking to them. The bus stopped close by to familiar parts of each town, although each now seemed a lot less glamorous and mundane. They just seemed like towns, not the Camino stages that we imbued with such significance in the previous week: places with food and a bed for the night. Some of the other passengers on the bus, most of whom were going to Pamplona, seemed annoyed by the many stops along the way. I would be too if all I wanted to do was to get to Pamplona and I had missed the non-stop an hour earlier. As a student in the early 1990s, the bus to Galway from Dublin was punctuated by small towns that only blocked my way to a weekend of excess. I suspect many on this bus were merely putting up with the stopping bus because it was cheaper.

When I was walking from Pamplona to Logrono, the towns were destinations, about 20km apart and places where we could rest, chat with others on the Camino and maybe see familiar faces. Los Arcos is very beautiful and Viana had a bull run as part of its festival on the day that we arrived. From September the 3rd last I was able to note each town’s particular character – seen by me for the first time – but which on the bus journey from Logrono seemed a lot less special. It was not just the mode of transport that differed this time however; I was on my own for the first time in a week, not on pilgrimage but not feeling like a tourist either. On the bus with others but on my own. I was on my way to meet my partner in a city that we had both been to before but I was changed by the Camino experience.

This paper is about a data collection process for my thesis. It is also about a spiritual journey from the French border to Logrono in the company of a specific cohort of people who all chose September 3rd as their particular date to start their Camino. If Rose (2010) says that sacredness offers a way to listen and Slater (2004) seeks more insider accounts for the development of religious geographies, this paper is an attempt to listen to and an attempt to account for experience. My paper draws from the work by Holloway (2003) on the everyday embodiment of sacredness and on theoretical work by Ivakhiv (2006). I contend that religious geographies / geographies of religion are neglecting the everyday sacredness of embodied space. By allowing this, religious geographies are often discounted as little more than quaint anthropological observation.”

Catch you on the far end of the trip.


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