Visiting Ground Zero: sacred echoes in secular rites


  • Richard Martin Emory University


Pilgrims and pilgrimages, Implicit religion, Terrorism, Violence, Ritual, United States, Politics and Islam, Voyages and travels, Tourist trade, Ritualization (Psychology), September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001, Disasters, Memorials, Mourning


For the past several years since September 11, 2001, large numbers of people from across the continent and around the world have visited the site of the devastated World Trade Center in New York. Scholars in religious studies and the social sciences have noticed that there were and continue to be (though less so over time) religious aspects to the observances and performances of visitors to ‘Ground Zero’, as the site of the former World Trade Center almost immediately came to be called. A central argument of this article is that the ongoing stream of visitors to Ground Zero, strictly speaking, does not qualify this phenomenon as a pilgrimage in the traditional religious sense; it is more akin to the growing phenomenon of religious tourism, although it is not exactly that either. Nonetheless the event of 9/11 generated many ritualized activities; the article will also address the pro­cess scholars call ‘ritualization’ and related terms in ritual studies. Although ritualized performances at Ground Zero do not amount to a pilgrimage in the narrow sense that historians of religion mean when they analyse traditional pilgrimages, such as the Hajj to Mecca, or following the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, visiting Ground Zero has taken on both secular and religious elements.



How to Cite

Martin, R. (2010). Visiting Ground Zero: sacred echoes in secular rites. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 22, 268–287.