Ritual construction of the "community" and the arena : multiple identities of a Mazu pilgrimage in Taiwan

Lu M-huan (2005)
Bielefeld (Germany): Bielefeld University.

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Bielefeld Dissertation | English
Author
Supervisor
Schlee, Günther (Prof. Dr.)
Alternative Title
Rituelle Konstruktion von "Gemeinschaft" und die Arena : multiple Identitäten einer Mazu-Pilgerfahrt in Taiwan
Abstract
The research regards pilgrimage as a cultural repertoire of resources for people to create identities and construct "community". Unlike Victor Turner's concept of communitas, I argue that the meaning of community can be constructed differently in different contexts. Participants attach various meanings to the pilgrimage, so that distinction and competition within the pilgrim group are inevitable. In the first chapter, I introduce the history of worship dedicated to the goddess Mazu and the development of her cults in Taiwan, where the Mazu pilgrimage is a popular activity and even becomes a significant emblem to denote people's identity. The second chapter explains my research methods and strategies, which also includes the reflexivity of the research. The pilgrimage is organised by a temple located in a northwestern coastal village of Taiwan. The ethnographic background of the village and its ritual landscape of communal worship are depicted in the third chapter. Translocal influence on local festivities is brought into the village through emigrants, who frequently return to take part in ritual activities despite having moved away. The first theme of the fourth chapter illustrates the preparation and ritual process of the pilgrimage. The second theme of this chapter discusses the domain of the Mazu cult. Pilgrimage ritual constructs a territory-bound community centred on the Baishatun Mazu cult. By analysing the pilgrim's physical experience and representations, I explicate the ritual transformation of pilgrimage in the fifth chapter. The journey on foot does not have a fixed route and timetable. The march of pilgrim depends on the result of the palanquin performance, a specific ritual displayed on the trail, which is claimed to be involved in divine intervention. While the performers' physical enactment makes them believe in the goddess's theophany during the palanquin performance, pilgrim perception of the performance centres on testifying to the goddess's efficacy. Similarly, the pilgrims who undertake the tough journey on foot struggle to transcend their normal physical condition. Travelling on foot can thus embody and manifest the pilgrim's Mazu belief, whereby divine assistance is always the explanation for overcoming difficulties on the pilgrimage odyssey. I explore the social and ritual transcendent power of the pilgrimage in the sixth chapter. Albeit the routes taken vary annually, the ritual topography of the journey reflects the social map of the pilgrim group. Legends depicting the goddess's efficacy play a crucial role in forging pilgrimage bonds; cultivating social relationships with devotees and temples along the journey is indispensable to sustaining and reinforcing them. In fact, the reason for maintaining unfixed pilgrimage routes lies in the flexibility of exploring possible alliances and developing Baishatun's ritual niche in the western Taiwan plain. Since the pilgrim group bears the name of its locality, the journey also serves to spread the reputation of the local Mazu cult. Pilgrimage becomes a way to transcend the cult's geographical, social, and ritual boundaries. Viewing community as a concept for referring to fields of shared belonging, I explicate different ways of constructing community in the seventh chapter. The common journeying experience is crucial to forging identity. After wading across a river during the journey in 2001, several projects of local place-making and cultural preservation were largely encouraged to construct the territory-bound community centred on Baishatun. Emigrants claim the home village identity that connects them to local residents through kin relations or ritual festivities, thus creating the relational community of the Mazu cult. Since the Mazu cult contains the universal feature of including pilgrims and believers from other places, its religious community is produced on the basis of de-territorilisation. Further, pilgrimage films and Internet communication provide resources for collective imagination, which leads to the construction of an imagined Mazu cult community. The eighth chapter deals with the pilgrimage arena. While the arena for pilgrimage leadership and neighbourhood temple reputation is confined to certain people from local factions, the competition for personal advantage takes place among pilgrims and believers en route. The second part of this chapter discusses the battle of pilgrimage representation in written form. Despite various discourses on the goddess Mazu and her pilgrimage, Baishatun emigrants in Taipei own the cultural resources to speak for the pilgrimage. Because the pilgrimage brings rich economic and social resources to this local Mazu cult, conflicting relations are not permitted to jeopardise the common good of the pilgrim group. In conclusion, the pilgrimage creates people's multiple identities, a mosaic of residence, ethnicity, relational connection, religious belief, and collective imagination.
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Cite this

Lu M-huan. Ritual construction of the "community" and the arena : multiple identities of a Mazu pilgrimage in Taiwan. Bielefeld (Germany): Bielefeld University; 2005.
Lu, M. -huan (2005). Ritual construction of the "community" and the arena : multiple identities of a Mazu pilgrimage in Taiwan. Bielefeld (Germany): Bielefeld University.
Lu, M. -huan (2005). Ritual construction of the "community" and the arena : multiple identities of a Mazu pilgrimage in Taiwan. Bielefeld (Germany): Bielefeld University.
Lu, M.-huan, 2005. Ritual construction of the "community" and the arena : multiple identities of a Mazu pilgrimage in Taiwan, Bielefeld (Germany): Bielefeld University.
M.-huan Lu, Ritual construction of the "community" and the arena : multiple identities of a Mazu pilgrimage in Taiwan, Bielefeld (Germany): Bielefeld University, 2005.
Lu, M.-huan: Ritual construction of the "community" and the arena : multiple identities of a Mazu pilgrimage in Taiwan. Bielefeld University, Bielefeld (Germany) (2005).
Lu, Mei-huan. Ritual construction of the "community" and the arena : multiple identities of a Mazu pilgrimage in Taiwan. Bielefeld (Germany): Bielefeld University, 2005.
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