In keeping with recent anthropologists and scholars of religion who are re-imagining the phenomenon of pilgrimage as including more than just journeys to traditional “religious” sites, this article focuses on visitation to multiple sites of remembrance associated with mass tragedies. At the same time, my interest lies not only in the human actors who move between different memory sites, but also in the things that journey alongside or independent of them. In this article, I trace the movement of one particular object—an angel statue—that was initially created to memorialize individuals killed in the September 11 attacks and was later gifted to St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown, Connecticut, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings. Drawing upon recent scholarship in the fields of pilgrimage studies and material religion, I elucidate how objects like this statue can inform the lifeworlds around them, including lifeworlds that have been touched with grief. This mode of analysis reveals that memory objects like the angel statue are constantly being shaped and re-shaped as they mediate relationships between individuals and their deceased loved ones as well as relationships between various communities that have been touched by tragedy. I also take seriously the claims by scholars such as Latour (2005) and Lynch (2010) that objects themselves have a degree of agency in the intersubjective relationships that constitute our lived reality. Ultimately, my analysis shows that the angel statue and other physical objects that traverse multiple sites of remembrance can be understood as palimpsests of grief that attempt to facilitate forms of trans-situational bonding in our contemporary world.
"Traversing Mass Tragedies: Material Religion Between the 9/11 and Newtown Memorials,"
Journal of Global Catholicism:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://crossworks.holycross.edu/jgc/vol3/iss1/6