Laurent Amiotte-Suchet, Alexandre Grandjean

Stagings of a Catholic heterotopy. Ethnography of a Lourdes pilgrimage

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Heterotopy, pilgrimage, Lourdes, devices, performativity

This paper focuses on a three-year study of Swiss French-speaking pilgrimages to Our Mother of Lourdes in southern France. We give special attention to the site of the pilgrimage itself, seen as constituting an ensemble of spatiality set on scenery so to establish and enable an alternative social order that we would qualify as "heterotopical" in the continuity of Michel Foucault's and later on Kevin Hetherington's use of the concept. We shall consider how such spaces are being worked out by institutional and historical contingencies and especially how several urbanistic, scenic and discursive devices perform in particular on pilgrims in order to incorporate them into a «heterotopy» and make them act as if they were in an alternative social order. This paper also seeks to recontextualize this «alternative social space» that sets itself in contrast to a common world in which preachers and pilgrims figure as secularized and therefore, from an emic point of view, dehumanized. In this way, the Lourdes pilgrimage represents a case study of a militant time-space in which Catholic ethics and exemplarity are exposed for the direct observation and experience of the pilgrims.

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