Sich erlaufen. Pilgern als Identitätsstärkung

Lienau, Detlef (2009). Sich erlaufen. Pilgern als Identitätsstärkung. International Journal of Practical Theology, 13/2009(1), pp. 62-89. Walter de Gruyter 10.1515/IJPT.2009.5

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Against the background of an unexpected upswing in pilgrimages, this article states the thesis that pilgrimage enables a strengthening of one’s identity. In addition, the problem of a fragmented and indefinite identity is sketched, with reference to Zygmunt Bauman. In contrast stands a model of identity (connected with Albrecht Grçzinger) in which one contributes to a tradition in which one already is situated. In its main part, the article investigates the various factors of pilgrimage that contribute to this process of gaining one’s identity. Thus, a route frequented as much as theWay of St. James forms an already patterned space that offers the pilgrim traditioned roles to adopt. Walking, as a characteristic element of pilgrimage, is interpreted as physically generating and distinctively opening the space in which pilgrims understand themselves in the world. It also can be shown how walking as a form of physical being that leads from an instrumental relationship to one’s body to an immediate being in living one’s life, conveys certainty about one’s self and the world, activates one’s potential to overcome challenges, and provides self-empowerment. The author makes a strong case for a definition of pilgrimage oriented to an understanding of the hardship of crossing a foreign land, which is an image of a goal-oriented understanding of existence. The resulting poles of self-assurance and self-estrangement in pilgrimage are, in connection with Wilhelm Gräb, interpreted as an expression of a truly known but at the same time distanced self-understanding. Pilgrimage is therefore a form of physical self-interpretation in which people learn to view and be aware of their self-familiarity. Finally, against the background of this representation, criteria are elaborated for organizing a pilgrimage journey that is conducive to identity.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


01 Faculty of Theology
01 Faculty of Theology > Department of Protestant Theology [discontinued] > Institute of Practical Theology [discontinued] > Empirical Religious Research and Theory of Inter-religious Communication [discontinued]

UniBE Contributor:

Lienau, Detlef


200 Religion
200 Religion > 210 Philosophy & theory of religion
200 Religion > 240 Christian practice & observance




Walter de Gruyter




Detlef Lienau

Date Deposited:

06 May 2015 15:08

Last Modified:

06 May 2015 15:08

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Pilgern; Identität




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