Post-Secular Tourism: A Study of Pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela

Author: Mats Nilson

Publication type: PhD thesis

Year: 2016

Language: English

Pubisher: Karlstad University Studies

Category: Social Sciences


This thesis takes its starting-point in the post-secular changes in society and how these interplay with tourism. In spite of the intensive academic debate on and theorisation of the post-secular and post-secularism, the role of tourism in this change, called the return of religion, has not been studied. Conversely, neither has the role of post-secularism in tourism been addressed. The overall aim of this thesis is to describe and understand the relation between post-secularism and tourism. Specifically, the aim is to clarify and understand the relation between religious faith, place and tourism in our time on the basis of a case study of pilgrimage in the area of Santiago de Compostela. In other words, the thesis highlights the role of tourism in the emergence of what is now called the post-secular condition.

Santiago de Compostela is a Catholic Church instituted holy city, which has increase in number of visitors. The growing number of pilgrimages and their significance lend vitality to the return of religion phenomenon. The empirical material derives primarily from individual interviews as narratives are considered to be a vital dimension to constitute and construct human realities and modes of being.

This thesis shows that contemporary pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is a post-secular performative and place-creating phenomenon. Post-secular tourist places are subjective and spiritually meaningful destinations. Unlike traditional pilgrimage destinations a key attribute is that neither traditional religious faith nor loyalty to institutionalised faith are (pre)ordained. Rather, place is constructed by the narratives and experiences of post-secular tourists.