Augusta Xenia Thomson
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationNew York U.
Grant numberGr. 10633
Approve DateSeptember 29, 2023
Project TitleThomson, Augusta (New York U.) "More than One “Way?”: The Camino de Santiago in a Time of Mass Tourism and New Media Technologies"
The Camino de Santiago is a five-hundred-mile Catholic medieval pilgrimage route, European Cultural Itinerary, and UNESCO World Heritage site that transects the north of Spain. Since its reanimation in the 1980s, it has flourished into a multi-faith pilgrimage and touristic journey— driven largely by media promotion. Traditionally undertaken on foot, the pilgrimage shut down abruptly during the height of COVID-19, disrupting church and tourist economies dependent on the route. This closure sparked a slew of virtual pilgrimage platforms, catalyzing fresh questions about the Camino’s identity as a Catholic pilgrimage tethered to material rituals and local landscapes. Building on longstanding debates within the anthropology of Christianity, about the relationship between immediacy and mediacy (Meyer 2011), I consider how anxieties over the Camino and the communities it serves heighten concerns about its future. My research with pilgrims, pilgrim organizations, and regulatory bodies protecting and promoting the Camino asks: What is the Camino de Santiago? Who does it serve and how? How do anxieties about the future of the Camino entwine with wider preservation politics related to local landscapes, rural economies, Catholic religious practice, Spanish and regional identities, and European heritage?