Anna-Karina HERMKENS, Willy Jansen and Catrien Notermans, Eds., Moved by Mary: The Power of Pilgrimage in the Modern World. Ashgate (Farnham, Burlington), 2009.
Reviewed by Matthew T. LOVELAND, Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY 13214

Moved by Mary: The Power of Pilgrimage in the Modern World is a thought provoking collection of essays about Marian Pilgrimage across the globe. The foundation of the book is a collection of ethnographies about pilgrims and pilgrimage sites in several countries. Familiar locations like Lourdes and Fatima are covered, along with less studies locations from the Netherlands to Papau New Guinea, and others. The reader will be pleased to discover a complex text which engages multiple themes. Among these themes are the stability and variability in the meanings of pilgrimage sites in a modernizing world, the role of pilgrimage in the power relationships defined by class, status, and gender, and also the fundamental role of the senses in religious experience.

The collection opens with a section entitled “Negotiating Power Through Mary’s Imagery.” These essays by Simon Coleman, Willy Jansen, and David Morgan set the stage by describing Mary as a contestable, and contested, symbol. A strong social science text, the reader is convinced that the meaning of Mary is dependent upon the phenomenological, social, and historical context. As Jill Dubisch insightfully states in the epilogue, one cannot help but to recognize the strength of the Marian image. Mary, then, is not a passive intercessor indicative of traditional gender roles and relations, but rather an active, divine force in the modern world. We see evidence of this in Dubish’s own reflections on Marian imagery in Greece, but also in each of the essays in Part II entitled “Marian Pilgrimages and Politcial, Religious, and Economic Struggles.” Cathelijne de Busser and Anna Niedzwiedz write of Mary as “A Polish Master Symbol,” and Anna-Kerina Hermkens’ describes political contestation over Mary in the Papau New Guinea province of Bouganville. Ien Courtens’ essay about Marian pilgrimage in Sendangsono, Indonesia demonstrates that the symbol can serve to ease tensions between religious traditions, in this case among the Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, and Hindus who visit the site. Sanne Derks’ essay about Bolivia discusses how neoliberal politics are reproduced through pilgrimage, even as pilgrims interact with Mary to psychologically overcome structural deprivations. In part III, Cartien Notermans demonstrates the emotional power of Mary using an “iconographic elicitation method” (p. 136) to demonstrate how kin-related memories emerge to bolster familial and local ties in a secularizing, globalizing world. Lena Gemzöe writes of the feminization of religion in Portugal exploring the relationships between gender, power, and religious symbolism. Janine Klungel writes of Marian pilgrimages that help to defend traditional, matrifocal family structures against modern pressures on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. The final section does not hang together as well as those preceding it, but the strong essays by Peter Jan Margry, Edith Turner, and Robert A. Orsi encourage the reader to consider the power of Mary to transform the modern Catholic Church, and to rethink our empirical and theoretical approaches to the study of pilgrimage.

In sum, what the reader finds is an excellent collection true to its title. Movement, in the physical sense of ritual participation, in the geographic sense of covering terrain, and in the political sense of mobilization is covered throughout the text. This book will be essential reading for those interested in the role of pilgrimage in modern religion.

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