Kaell, “Of gifts and grandchildren: American Holy Land souvenirs”

September 19, 2012

Kaell, Hillary (2012) “Of gifts and grandchildren: American Holy Land souvenirs.” Journal of Material Culture. 17(2):133–151

Abstract: Despite significant scholarship in anthropology and tourism studies related respectively to gifts and souvenirs, little is known about why and to whom people give souvenir gifts. Using an American case study, this article shows how Holy Land pilgrimage and its attendant gift-giving are a crucial way that older women navigate tensions specific to the consumer culture and religious patterns of the 21st-century US. By giving souvenirs, pilgrims uphold the importance of individuality (as consumers and as believers), while also fulfilling what they believe is their special responsibility to bolster collective faith, particularly amongst networks of female friends and family. Crucial in this endeavor is how pilgrims negotiate the fluid line between commodity and religious object. Sometimes they imbue these commercial objects with divine presence, thereby creating powerful tools for asserting ‘soft’ authority at home. At other times, they present religious souvenirs as commodities, downplaying their spiritual value in order to circumvent rejection.

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