The Melbourne Cup: Australian identity and secular pilgrimage
Recent sociology of religion has emphasized the collapse of the sacred into the secular, and noted the shift in Western identity-formation from stable, institutional, religious sources of identity to fluid, individualist, consumerist sources of identity. One significant consequence of these changes is the sacralization of secular phenomena such as sport and shopping, and the corresponding commercialization of religious phenomena. This essay analyses the place of the Melbourne Cup, an annual horse racing event held on the first Tuesday of November, in contemporary Australian identity-formation. Further, it explores the ways in which attendance at the Cup and other modes of participation in the race, which might be viewed as 'secular' activities, have become quasi-religious or 'spiritual'. Pilgrimage best characterizes attendance at the Cup; and observance of the Cup's traditions (sweepstakes, ceasing work for the duration of the race, champagne breakfasts) are best understood as postmodern consumerist rituals for individual Australians, reinforcing personal identity.
Sport in Society
Law not elsewhere classified
Human Movement and Sports Science not elsewhere classified