Item Details

Celebrity Push, Celebrity Pull: Understanding the Role of the Notable Person in Pilgrimage

Issue: Vol 24 No. 3 (2011) Religion and Celebrity

Journal: Journal for the Academic Study of Religion

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/jasr.v24i3.317


Pilgrimages have been argued to be ‘journeys redolent with meaning’ (Digance 2006). Celebrities, those noted for their fame, have a gravitas, credibility, and power of association an unknown person does not possess, and status and functions that are arguably religiously equivalent. It is thus no surprise that celebrities are also used to promote tourist destinations. Similarly, the fame and attributed worth of celebrities results in their status in some fans’ eyes becoming similar to saints or holy people. Celebrity has been said to be an equivalent of religion in the modern world. Indeed, a famous person, or the sites associated with their life, can become destinations for pilgrimages in themselves at which the pilgrim-fans gain an experience of what Victor Turner termed ‘the Centre’. Sites such as Elvis Presley’s home Graceland, the graves of celebrities, their current residences, and even events they attend all become sites of celebrity pilgrimage. This study combines theories from the sociology of celebrity and religion, psychological studies of celebrity worship, and leisure involvement theory to explain this process. These are combined with theories from pilgrimage and tourism studies concerned with the dynamics of site popularity, and ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors as a method of thinking through the issues of ‘celebrity pilgrimage’. It argues that celebrities both push and pull fans towards them in ways that are functionally pilgrimage.

Author: Alex Norman

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