Multiple Spiritualities through the Lens of Ethnography

Convenors: Stefania Palmisano (University of Turin) & Emily Pierini  (Sapienza University of Rome)


In the field of studies of spirituality outside institutionalized religions, the categorization of “New Age” (or a New Age Movement) has recently been undermined by scholars suggesting that it would be more suitably termed “spirituality”. This category reflects an emic conceptualization; in fact, few of those who might be considered New Agers actually label themselves as such; they rather call what they do “spirituality” However, concerns remain over whether the term “spirituality”, which has much broader analytical connotations, can be used in this way, and whether it should be singular or plural. In this panel, we address this issue by asking whether there is such a thing as “global” spirituality, exploring the ways in which spirituality is defined through cross-cultural and transnational perspectives. To this end, the panel aims to gather papers illustrating how spirituality is conceived and practised in different places around the world by means of ethnographic analysis. It seeks to illuminate differences and similarities in the ways in which spirituality is unfolding in various locations. Ethnography has a crucial contribution to this endeavour because it provides detailed descriptions of how spirituality is lived through in everyday practice.

Mobility and transnationalization are key aspects that we propose to explore in the debate upon the scholarly categorization of “spirituality”. Therefore, we invite papers presenting ethnographic cases that tackle one or more of the following topics, particularly those that compare different cultural contexts:

- Transnational forms of spiritual practices;

- Spiritual healing and holistic therapies;

- Relationship between humans and spirits;

- Relationship between spirituality and religion;

- Spiritual tourism and mobility;

- Methodological challenges.

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