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France / Spain

within. without. [and] on the way: a walk across northern spain

Instructor: Ellen Donnelly
Location: France and Spain
Dates Abroad: Spring 2010

within, without [and] on the way is an exploration into the liminality of pilgrimage and is an investigation into the spatial, social and cultural potentials of participating in this transient experience. The Camino Francés, a 500-mile stretch of the Camino de Santiago, will be the path of travel and the subject of study for this course abroad. To be clear, this proposal is a literal walk across Northern Spain, to be completed with a group of students this summer.

The Camino de Santiago [or The Way of Saint James] has been a prominent European pilgrimage route for more than 1,000 years, although it finds its origins in an earlier pre-Christian pilgrimage to Cape Finnisterre on the Spanish Coast, or translated from Latin, the edge of the earth. We will begin our journey in St. Jean Pied de Port, France, pausing at the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, and will continue to the edge of the earth, to Cape Finisterre.

This proposal calls for a radical reconsideration of how we, as individuals engaged in the making and theorizing of space and culture, inhabit the earth. The proposal is both driven by the desire to experience the perceptual shift that occurs when forced to return to a pre-modern pace [that of walking], and well as to fully engage in the experience of being without for the duration of the trip. To go or to be without is to leave behind our conventional notions shelter, residence and of fixity, and requires that we carry all necessities on our person. The pilgrimage highlights the impossibility of possession, except for the most immediate needs [we become acutely aware of the inverse relationship between the size of our footprint and our ability to engage in this type of travel]. It also asks that we, as temporary occupants of a transient urban condition, find and form community from within our group, but also with those who travel the same path. The walk requires us to slow down and to occupy the present, to occupy the immediate physical space of our bodies, of our bodies in motion, moving through space, across the face of the earth, towards each day's destination.

In addition to the visceral experience of this study abroad, the course will focus on the methods of documentation and representation relative to contemporary discourse on archival practice and [transient] urbanism as experienced on the walk. The route has over 1800 buildings of "historic interest," which will by the nature of the trip and the work to be done, incorporated into the ongoing, lived research. This trip is situates itself within [this history] without [the comforts of home] and one the way [to Cape Finnisterre].

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