Title: Performing the sacred: Varanasi, the city of living heritage

Authors: Cristiana Zara

Addresses: School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

Abstract: This paper is about tourism and heritage performance in sacred sites. The pilgrimage city of Varanasi, in Northern India, forms the basis for analysing the multifarious spatial practices, social interactions and cultural performances which often constitute the heritage of religious sites. The central claim of this paper is that heritage is performative; drawing on ethnographic examples, I argue that Varanasi's heritage should be thought of as a 'living heritage' continually restored by the rituals of pilgrims, locals and devotees as much as by the activities of those who come to visit the city. This productive 'messiness' of performative and spatialised encounters activates processes of cultural negotiation and identity formation which underpin the symbolic relevance of this city.

Keywords: India; Varanasi; living heritage; multicultural encounters; tourist performance; tourist spaces; sacred sites; tourism anthropology; pilgrimage cities; social interactions; cultural performances; ethnography.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTA.2016.076802

International Journal of Tourism Anthropology, 2016 Vol.5 No.1/2, pp.116 - 137

Received: 21 Jun 2014
Accepted: 02 Dec 2014

Published online: 31 May 2016 *

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