Field Study Of Religion

Submitted By dmessy
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Pages: 5

Field Study of Religion

This project has three purposes: (1) to expose you to a religion other than your own, (2) to have you apply anthropological principles learned in class to a specific situation, and (3) to have you experience anthropological fieldwork.

Choosing a Religion for Study
Your first task will be to choose a religion to study. Some questions you may ask in selecting a religion to study are: Do you know someone who could be an informant? Do you know the location of a specific church, temple, mosque, etc? Will the ceremony be conducted in English? An answer of “no” to any of these questions does not mean you cannot study that religion; it just means it will be a bit more challenging.

If you have no idea what religion you would like to study, consider looking at The Encyclopedia of American Religions. Possibilities include: Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Baptist, Adventists, Fundamentalist, Mormon, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Unitarian, Jewish, Muslim, Baha'i, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, “Pagan”, Wicca, etc. Note that with certain religions you will need to make a further choice between different subgroups (e.g., Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist Judaism).

Scientology is not an acceptable religion.

Doing the Fieldwork
Your next step is to attend a ritual in the religion you have selected. The ritual can be a public ceremony such as a Sunday morning church service, a rite of passage or even a ritual held in a home. Make plans to go to your site. If you do not have an informant to go with, you may want to call ahead and make arrangements. Tell them who you are and why you want to attend, find out when and where services are, and ask any additional questions such as how to dress. If you are unsure about this last point, err on the side of being conservative. Your dress and behavior reflects on the college.

Attend the ritual, watching for things that will help you write your paper. You may also want to ask questions of an informant (e.g., what did that mean? Why did they do that?) or to look up information in books or on the Internet. Make sure you either take good notes or tape record any interview and consider discretely taking notes at the ceremony, if it is permitted.

However, never make a tape recording without the permission of the person you are speaking with and do not record the ritual without the permission of the person in charge. If you asked for permission to attend the ritual, sending a note of appreciation afterwards would be a nice gesture. In general, while you are attending the ritual you should do as they do. For example, if they stand, so should you. If they are all wearing head coverings and they are provided, you should wear one too. The exception is when it comes to actually participating in the ritual such as taking communion in a Catholic church. If you are unsure, ask.

You might want to arrange to speak with the ritual specialist (priest, rabbi, minister, monk, etc.), although this is not a required part of the assignment. Most will more than happy to speak with you and they would be an invaluable source of information. This person can also serve as your informant.

Keep all of your field notes. The instructor reserves the right to ask you to turn them in if he has some questions about your work. The instructor may also want to discuss your project with you.

Do not wait until the last minute. Fieldwork often does not go as planned; allow yourself time for unforeseen difficulties. This is not a paper that can be written at the last minute.

The Paper
Use your field notes on your observations of the ritual, and your notes from any interviews, reading or Internet material, if any, to write your paper. Organize your paper into four sections and label each section with a heading.

I. Introduction
a. Identify the religion you chose to study. Provide a brief history.
b. Identify the place where you observed the