Walt Disney World: Bounded ritual space and the playful pilgrimage center

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Abstract

This essay explores the proposition that Walt Disney World is an amusement park whose form is borrowed from the pilgrimage center. Bateson, Norbeck, and Turner have shown that play and ritual together comprise a metaprocess of expressive behavior rooted in our mammalian past. Substantively both traditional pilgrimage centers, especially Mecca, and Walt Disney World are analyzed in terms of shared activities, symbols displayed, myths evoked, and tripartite time-space processes of rites of passage. The Magic Kingdom is shown to be a giant limen ritual threshold, which symbolically replicates the baroque capital. To go there is to engage in transcendent make-believe, play which is intended with deadly seriousness. The pilgrimage form has re-emerged as a place for grand play. Finally, the essay speculates that the playful pilgrimage is particularly appropriate to a secular, technologized society in which transition is constant.

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Authors

  • Alexander Moore

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