Journal Article

A watchful presence: Aesthetics of well-being in a Japanese pilgrimage


This article examines practices of watching and walking as aesthetic staging grounds for the embodiment of social values, well-being, and aged subjectivities. Using a small, grassroots neighbourhood-watch ‘pilgrimage' created by and for older adults in Kyoto, Japan as my primary case study, I describe how the sacred meanings of pilgrimage come to inhabit spaces of civic social engagement (and vice versa) and elder subjectivity through practices of mapping, record-keeping, and ritual. I argue that following these practices with the older adult pilgrims leads us beyond what Coleman [2002. Do You Believe in Pilgrimage?: From Communitas to Contestation and Beyond. Anthropological Theory, 2(3):355–68] referred to as a theoretical ‘pilgrimage ghetto’, and creates openings to engage with multiple registers of intersubjective practice: watching and being watched over; grounding and transcending. Watching and walking also contest the marginality, dependence, and precarious invisibility that dominate popular discourse on ageing in contemporary Japan.

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Danely, Jason

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2015
Date of RADAR deposit: 2019-11-25

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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