Final Paper Part III: An Ethnography of a Religious Event
In your textbook, Eller (2013, p.7) notes that, “Anthropology does not approach religion to falsify it nor to verify it nor even to judge it. Anthropology is not the seminary, intending to indoctrinate the student into any one particular religion. It is not apologetics, attempting to prove or justify some religion; neither is it an exercise in debunking any or all religion.”
Keep this perspective in mind while conducting your observations and writing your paper. The purpose of this assignment is not to defend/debunk or judge any particular religious practice. Your goal is to understand the religious event from the perspective of those who practice it, while still acknowledging your role as an outside observer with imperfect knowledge of their perspective. Demonstrate a culturally relativistic perspective throughout the paper.
For this paper, you will complete an ethnography of a religious event. This will consist of two parts: 1) an initial observation of the event and 2) a follow up which can consist of further observations, interviews, or a visit to a related site. Any follow up interviews/observations should be conducted based on your initial observations, instructor feedback, or questions that arose when you conducted library research on the topic.
Make sure you adhere to the Statement on Ethics. of the American Anthropological Association while conducting your field work, and inform the community that you observe of your intention. You must obtain permission beforehand to observe them. Do not directly involve vulnerable groups such as minors, disabled, or other groups that may require special ethical considerations. While you can observe a ritual involving minors such as baptism, given the consent of parents, you should not interview minors or otherwise engage with them.
Try to choose an event that is outside of your usual religious tradition (e.g., do not go to the church service you regularly attend unless there is no other viable option).
Appropriate sites include (but are not limited to):
· Baptism ritual
· Dharma talk at a Buddhist center or temple
· Marriage ritual (of any faith). Make sure to primarily elaborate on the rituals at the event.
· Puja at a Hindu temple
· Rasta reasoning session
· Religious service (of any faith)
· A religious rite of passage (involving community)
Note: If you are unable to attend a specific site, you may use the following alternative sites for your ethnography.
· An online chat group dedicated to a particular religion or faith.
· An online religious talk or service.
· Second Life Buddha Center. (http://www.thebuddhacenter.org/calendar/schedule-b-c/)
This should be used only in special circumstances, and you must have the permission of your instructor in advance to do so.
Your Final Paper will consist of your interwoven observations, analysis, and academic research. Your paper will include your observations from the event, quotations and paraphrasing of the interviews you conducted, and quotations and paraphrasing from the scholarly sources to support your analysis.
In your Final Paper, you must
· Address ethical considerations related to your research and examine how you upheld the Statement on Ethics. of the American Anthropological Association while conducting your field work.
· Incorporate instructor feedback provided on Parts I and II of the research paper.
· Describe your observations of the ritual and include answers to the following questions
o Where did you conduct your observation? When was it conducted? Whom did you interview? Who attended the event? Make note of gender, ethnicity, class, age, and economic status (where possible).
o How do people act before, during, and after the ritual? Observe special movements or gestures. Observe the environment (setting, art, and other objects around). Ask about any special language used in prayer or chanting.
o Is there a particular religious official? Who is in charge? If there is someone “in charge” of the event, how is this manifested? Does this person act or dress differently from the rest of the people at the event?
o What is the flow of the event? Do people participate individually or en masse? What is the expressed purpose of the event?
· Describe your follow-up observations/interviews. How did this expand upon your understanding from your initial observations?
· Conduct library research: Your completed reference list should have at least five scholarly sources in addition to the textbook. Cite your references in the body of your paper and include a reference list in APA style.
· Utilize your library research, and include answers to the following questions:
o To what extent are the religious practices of the people representative of their religion? What branch or sect of faith do the practices represent?
o Do the practices of the people differ from the principles and tenets of their religious doctrine?
· Examine your role as a researcher. What role does reflexivity, as described by Wagner on p. 18-19 of the textbook, play in your research? While the majority of the paper should focus on your observations and scholarly research, it is also important to acknowledge how your own beliefs (or lack of beliefs) affect your analysis. While you should aim for a neutral, nonjudgmental tone throughout the paper, you should also take into account that you cannot simply turn your own beliefs on or off at will.
· Incorporate the six stages of fieldwork described by Wagner in Chapter 1 of your textbook, “The Study of Religion in American Society”
1. Gaining entree
o Did you notice any conflict between your responsibility to those you studied and your goal to collect the data you needed for your research? If so, how did you resolve this?
2. Experiencing culture shock
o How did you feel trying to fit in and understand something unfamiliar?
o How did you navigate misunderstandings or your own preconceived notions?
o How did you distinguish empirical observations from your own judgments and feelings?
3. Establishing rapport
o How did you negotiate personal distance/closeness with the people involved in your research?
o How did you balance participation and observation? How did this affect your research?
o Were you able to gain an understanding of the event in both emic and etic terms?
4. Ever-increasing understanding
o How did your follow-up research increase your understanding?
o What else would you like to understand or do you not fully understand yet?
5. Leaving the field
o Will you see people you worked with again?
o What will your relationship with them be?
6. Analyzing and interpreting
o What patterns did you find in your notes? Did this differ from your impressions during your initial observations?
o Did you notice any issues with loyalty or conflicting interests in writing your paper?
Writing the Final Paper
The Final Paper
· Must be eight to 10 double-spaced pages in length (excluding the title and reference pages), and formatted according to APA style as outlined in the Ashford Writing Center.
· Must include a title page with the following text in the center of the page:
o Title of paper
o Student’s name
o Course name and number
o Instructor’s name
o Date submitted
· Must compose an introductory paragraph that has a succinct thesis statement at the end. The introduction should set up your topic, giving a preview and summarizing the analysis you will present in the body of the paper. The thesis statement is the last sentence of the introduction and states what you will argue in the paper or what will be the main point structuring your paper.
· Must have well-structured body paragraphs with clear transitions from one topic to the next. Incorporate in-text citations from your scholarly sources to support your analysis throughout the paper.
· Must end with a concluding paragraph that reaffirms your thesis. Remember not to present new information or analysis here. Summarize and tie together your main points for the reader.
· Must include a reference page with at least five scholarly sources in addition to the textbook (at least six sources total). Make sure all references have been cited in the body of the paper and vice versa. For information regarding APA samples and tutorials, visit the Ashford Writing Center.
Carefully review the Grading Rubric .for the criteria that will be used to evaluate your assignment.
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