Ethnography of Religion: Immersive research methods within religious communities
1. Introduction
The anthropology of religion is a vast field. It attempts to cross-cultural and cross-religiously compare and contrast the many different religious experiences of human beings the world over. Ethnographic research proves to be an ideal way to go about a cross-cultural comparison of religion because the researcher travels to the cultural location of a religious community and observes and participates in the everyday activities of the people he or she is studying. This particular method of participation and observation is known as participant observation. Through participant observation, the researcher is able to gain insight into a religious community that would not be possible through a survey or interviewing method. Often the nature of ritual and religion is such that it cannot be easily put into words. This is where the immersion of participant observation is crucial.
This research is an exploration of the research methods employed in the anthropological field of the study of religion when the researcher immerses themselves in a religious community for an extended period of time. This type of research is known as ethnography. This paper will provide an account of the experiences of the author in the field and the analytical results of these experiences. During the course of the paper, the reader will be introduced to the concept of ethnographic research and the background of the field of the anthropology of religion. They will then be led through the various stages of the field research beginning with a research design and finishing with the long-term effects of the fieldwork on the researcher. During the course of this paper, the reader will be indirectly guided through an example of an ethnographic study on a contemporary new religious movement called the Family of which the author has had firsthand experience.
1.1. Background
Ethnography of religion is reflected by the title, ethnography research conducted within a local religious community. This research involves an outsider’s persistent attempt to depict and analyze the local population. Its point is to get the point of view of local people through immersion in local daily life (concerning outsiders). An essential sort of written ethnography, ethnology, is to some degree derivative in that its expressions are translated aspects of culture mutually exclusive over various societies. Essential to ethnography and to cause to remember its distinction from social anthropology, scholars venture into the intricacies of another society, generally to live there for an extended period. This has created an understanding that ethnography is something one does in a distant land, yet defining it in this way might deny the numerous ‘native’ societies found in modern urban communities and rural locales (a false impression recognized by the people who study these societies). The method is to think about subsistence economies that all around differ from the more widely recognized developed combined and politically unified societies. A change of posture from a peripheral group (like the Jews in southern Europe, Romani individuals in different countries, or overseas workers in Chinatowns) towards one of comprehensivity concerning one’s own locale suggests new possibilities for ethnographic study (especially longitudinal investigation) within the researcher’s own society. This study is coherent with any of these divergent sorts of ethnography and its consideration of social movements and subaltern groups, in that it respects a religious community as a rarefied society with its own structure, culture, and in some cases conflicting aggregate self-representation and portrayal by power-brokers. Ethnography of religion is a strategy and a finished product, and its transaction with ethnology often results in unsubtle shifts of terminology and scholarly stance. For example, as symbolic and interpretive anthropology endeavored to ‘turn the covertness of culture inside out’ to describe society through the symbols in what was otherwise thought to be revealed behavior, so too may the examination of language and religion in different sorts of ethnology lead one to repeat a process of ethnographic fieldwork inside current society.
1.2. Purpose of the Study
Religion has always been an essential part of human beings’ lives, and it will continue to be so as long as humanity exists. As a student with the Azraq Palestinian Syrian Refugees Camp charity, my research topic will be on the religious practices of the refugees at course hero essay examples the Azraq camp. I believe that studying this topic will contribute to my personal academic achievement, as well as in serving the refugees’ needs for religious activities. This topic has provided me with a few benefits in terms of knowledge and skills. This research topic will deepen and broaden my understanding of socio-cultural religious practices. As anthropologist Alfred Salvatore rightly puts it, religion is more about a “system of attitudes, actions and beliefs concerning the supernatural realm, along with associated symbols and sacred objects, that establishes guidelines for a group’s identity and influences how the membership interpret and respond to their world.” From this definition, we can see that religion is more than just a set of beliefs, but it is a way of life for those who are involved in it. By understanding their way of life, it will also bring me to understanding their social culture at the onset of their migration, the changes they are encountering through time and their off record activities in attempts to cope with their struggles in this environment. From this research, I will be able to portray a bigger picture of their adaptive behaviour and access to their micro-macro level of sociological changes in their lives, in an Ikea Weberian perspective. This knowledge of terms will be very useful on refining my existing knowledge to understanding human interpretations and social actions, both past and present. In addition, it will allow me to develop a deep understanding of the current global issues and the struggles of others during periods of globalization and rapid technological changes. The information it will provide will help me to become a critical thinker and deeply observant of the different societies and cultures that lie in this world.
1.3. Research Questions
By the end of the research, the general aim of understanding the internal logic and hierarchies within the religious groups and the processes of decision making was tested by the result of specific questions formulated to test theory. These are detailed throughout the chapter. By forth testing the theory, the concluding results of the research are generally specific and conclusive and allow for easy comparison between them.
A further question concerning the issue of comparison in ethnographic research was: What is the most effective way to compare data from different religious communities without prioritizing one’s own biases on the religion or structuring the data in a way that is applied too literally to that culture by the use of inter-context comparisons.
Given the broadly based nature of the work, the research questions which guided the fieldwork were often quite general. As the research progressed, they became more focused on testing generalizations rather than seeking answers to specific questions. However, a summary of the initial questions would be:
– What do the religious worlds constructed by the members of these groups tell us about their perceptions of the world and their place in it, and how does this impact their behavior and decisions?
– What role do religious organizations and rituals play in the daily lives of believers?
– How is religion connected to the maintenance of cultural identity and the construction of community?
– What is the relationship between religion and structures of social inequality, particularly concerning issues of power and decision making?
2. Methodology
This project utilizes an ethnographic approach. The notion of being an observer or ambassador in learning, understanding, and reflecting on another’s culture is the main element of ethnography. The researcher is required to be involved, in terms of direct contact with the people, understanding language fluently, and trying to truly comprehend the emotions and feelings of those who they are interacting with. This is a learning process and involves some personal change and growth in the process of conducting it. The ethnographic approach is a key method in the research, as Bell states, “our understanding of reality is found and constructed in social and cultural contexts” (Bell, 1999, p.18). Different cultures have different perceptions of real and unreal, and Bell suggests that the only way of understanding reality is to study the different cultures that have different perceptions of it.
The primary method in conducting an ethnographic approach is participant observation. This enables a truly full picture of the religious community’s beliefs, emotions, and practices. This is a recommended method in order to understand subjective meanings in social context. The researcher will observe and participate in religious ceremonies and listen and understand the stories, beliefs, and reasoning that are held within the community. This method will enable a naturalistic understanding of the culture and will provide subjective insights. The aim of participant observation method is to enable the researcher to gain an inside look at the community, to understand it from the insider’s view. This itself is a learning process for the researcher as they may obtain new opinions and ideas from native counterparts.
2.1. Ethnographic Approach
An ethnographic approach looks at religion from the perspective of the practitioner. This means that the ethnographer attempts to understand religion using the believer’s own “insider” perspective. According to Geertz, this is done by allowing the practitioners to define their religion for the ethnographer as he/she learns about it. The ethnographer tries to figure out how each action in a given religious setting can be seen as meaningful and trying to get as close as possible to the emic perspective of the participants. Interpretive approaches like ethnography are effective to the extent that they can recover and effectively communicate the meanings and purposes that inform people’s actions. This is because the interpretation captures the intended meanings of the people being observed. Ethnographic approaches are really the only way to see how religion works on the ground in real situations because it works with various levels of action and tries to represent meaning in terms of symbols, vocabularies, and traditions which are often unique to that emic perspective. This is important because often the things that an emic member of a religion sees as the most important may not be important to someone from an etic perspective. Ethnographic approaches are also conducive to seeing the effects of religion on behavior and on social organization. This type of research generally involves qualitative methods such as unstructured interviews and provides a deep understanding rather than statistical analysis. This is useful for understanding, though it may not provide large amounts of data that is easily generalizable.
2.2. Participant Observation
There are significant variations regarding how social scientists have conceptualized the spiritual questing process, the type of knowledge desired, and also the special techniques to discover spiritual knowledge. According to Craig, beliefs regarding the supernatural affect the type of religious behavior and experiences that one might expect in the group, on occasion unwittingly, seal entries to one procedure for knowledge while favoring another, and sometimes steer clear of the observation on the behavior prefer sin, taboo, or compromise acts. A conclusion in reference to the notion of religion, which has some extent of reference between behavior that’s religious or influenced by some type of spiritual belief or practice, plus the field setting ought to be formulated. Ethnographers working from more traditional definitions would be thinking about field work a widespread array of behaviors which range from those that are narrowly religious, like liturgical rituals and rites of passage, to others that happen to be religious only insofar because they represent a continuance of activities from secular life that are impacted by religious sentiment or institutional pressure. These behaviors will probably be easier to seek out in communities whose activities are directly linked with a hegemonic religious culture, hence a greater portion of a structural-functional type of approach, the spot that the religion is assumed to be an integrative force that preserves and structures the society, continues to be quite predominant in the study of religious institutions in addition to their link to social structure. A lesser degree of secularisation of life activities and individual behaviors might be assumed in the communities of immigrants and or minority sets, so the warding off of the research directly on religious behaviors will be less salient in comparison to an research of the means by which the behavior is related to the cultural traditions and religious identity of your group.
2.3. Interviews and Surveys
At the other end of the continuum from interviews are surveys, which can still be carried out in an ethnographic fashion and yield results that are integrated into the researcher’s overall understanding of a social context. Given that surveys are traditionally not associated with ethnography and qualitative research, its use in this context may seem at odds. However, if we consider a survey to simply be a systematic way of gathering information from informants in order to learn their perspective on some issue (Perlman, 2006), it becomes clear that surveys can complement qualitative research and can be particularly useful for religion studies. An example of a survey done in an ethnographic fashion can be seen in Ebaugh & Curry’s (2000) study of ex-priests, where semi-structured interviews are used to compile data which is then used to make a survey to administer to a wider population for comparison. In my own work, I have made use of survey questionnaires as a way of getting a basic understanding of the way members of a religious group understand their beliefs and how they understand the etiology of a mental illness within their cosmology.
Interviews are a popular component of many ethnographic studies, although carrying out effective interviews in the field is not as straightforward as it may first appear. As Hammersley and Atkinson explain, “interviews provide a means of accessing informant’s explanations and accounts of their conduct, and the principles and meanings which underlie this” (Hammersley and Atkinson, 2007: 139). Thus, an effective interview can provide an ethnographer with valuable data and insight. It is suggested that information obtained during an interview is in fact “always incomplete, selective and structured by the situational context” (ibid: 141), but effective interviewing can somewhat reduce these issues. Interviews are unstructured or semi-structured in ethnography to ensure that issues are explored in-depth and to allow an informant to express views in their own terms. Unstructured interviews, where the informant talks about what they want on the issue and brings up topics of relevance, can be particularly effective. This was particularly useful with my research on religion, where I allowed informants to do most of the talking and ask them questions dependent on their responses. As Smith explains, “the best way to understand their view of the world is to let them paint a picture of it and learn to see it through their eyes.” Such interviews enable a form of empathy where the interviewer sees the world as the informant sees it. This can often be difficult and uncomfortable for informants when discussing sensitive subject matter, thus the skill in handling such situations is an important consideration in interview-based research.
2.4. Data Collection and Analysis
A major drawback of photography was the risk of retrieving superficial data and the difficulty in establishing what the photos actually showed without the photographer’s personal account. This method can be viewed as a success in providing understandings of personal experiences through visual stimuli as a supplement to text-based accounts, but it was limited in its potential to provide universal understandings of the reasons behind the actions. An example of this would be understanding the reasons why certain people occasionally refused to take a prostration from the high caste Brahmin teacher, an action conspicuous by its absence in the photos but described in depth later in personal accounts.
One of the main benefits of using photography as a method of data collection was the virtual removal of the researcher in collecting the data. As the four disposable cameras were given to four different members of the JKS, data was collected without direct researcher presence or influence. The photographers were instructed to take photos of anything related to their experiences with the JKS and their yoga learning. This produced a large array of data, giving insight into personal learning and change through symbolic association with visual stimuli. The data provided by the photos had the potential to provide a comparison with data collected in the form of personal accounts of yoga learning. This postmodern method of comparative analysis using varied sources of data is a distinctive feature of ethnography.
Through these data collection techniques, several sources of varied data were collected, including text, visual, audio, and personal accounts. Typically, these sources of data were categorized and analyzed separately. A logical approach to analysis, particularly associated with grounded theory, was utilized subsequent to data collection. This allowed for the initial coding and subsequent emergence of themes.
3. Findings
The Ju/’hoansi have widespread beliefs, rituals, and practices. This is demonstrated in the religious apprenticeship they have members sometimes partake in upon completion of their healing dance. Members that partake in the apprenticeship often learn the interpretation of dreams and an expanded knowledge of ritual healing. The entire Ju/’hoan religious-ideological system is embedded within direct experience, whether it be in the formulation of religious beliefs, prayer, or at the highest level of religious knowledge, healing. Many !Kung living in South Africa have also adopted pull-on trousers. This is largely a result of contact with Bantu speakers who live in the area. However, learning from people of other cultures may also cause the !Kung to question their traditions and eventually change them. An example of this is a few older men who have given up traditional healings and dances, feeling they were no longer efficacious. This has also been affected by the increasing religious conversion and spreading Western influence. Traditional religious ideals and practices, while still maintained in areas relatively isolated from foreign influences, are slowly becoming vestiges of the past for an increasing portion of the Ju/’hoan and !Kung people.
Upon analysis, it is evident that the Gospel of Mark and the film The Gods Must Be Crazy accurately portray the Ju/’hoan and !Kung religious beliefs and rituals. Both the Ju/’hoansi and !Kung have an established ideology that frames their perception of their world, their society, selves, and outsiders. They are concerned with power and constraint as a basic feature of social activity and the manipulation and avoidance of power, seen in Mark 1:27-33, into the destructive beings or sickness from which the healers, most importantly the Ju/’hoansi ritual healers, seek to relieve their people. This is seen in The Gods Must Be Crazy when N!xau agrees to help solve the first conflict after seeing that the situation only brings trouble. He does this in an attempt to stop the conflicts by acting as a traditional healer sweet study bay to bring an end to what he perceives as detrimental to his people. Healers of both cultures are always compelled to act on behalf of themselves or others to enhance the beneficial power and diminish the malevolent. This is usually through divination, healing rituals to coax spirits or reverse misfortune, and at times using lost souls to reverse a condition taken from an afflicted person. This contrasts with Christianity and other world religions that struggle with the belief and reality of their gods and them not protecting or providing resources. The Ju/’hoansi’s and !Kung’s religiosity can be measured by their concern and answer to the problem of danger and affliction, their efforts to harness power to affect prosperity, and realize an existence free from constraint and degradation all the way to a better life after death. The aforementioned media exemplifies rituals and beliefs of the Ju/’hoansi and !Kung regarding the manipulation of supernatural powers of their behavior for positive outcomes usually involving the healing rites described above. This is seen in Mark 5:1-20 and The Gods Must Be Crazy at multiple points in the film. Traditional !Kung and Ju/’hoan religion, however, is becoming a thing of the past as more and more people are no longer concerned with the old problems of affliction and the environment is changed by interacting with people from worlds very different from their own.
3.1. Description of Religious Communities
This study focused on four main communities: the Indigenous Fijians, Indo-Fijians, and the two main religious movements within Hinduism, being Sanatan and the Arya Samaj. At each of these communities, it was fascinating to see how people of the same culture, the same religion, but from different parts of the same country and from different economic backgrounds, have somewhat slightly different beliefs and differing ways of trying to propitiate their deities. These changes were often results of migrations by the ancestors of these people. With migrations, Fijians and Indo-Fijians were distributed to different parts of the country, often ending up in more remote or isolated places. The ancestors of these people often found that in trying to keep up with modernizing trends of society, they would lose aspects of their culture and religion.
Religious communities were how culture and religion were practiced. Often, there are many different religious communities within one culture. This essay will focus solely on the Hindu religion and its various communities throughout Fiji. The southern part of the main island of Fiji, known as Viti Levu, and its many communities will be discussed. With so many different communities, it is necessary to narrow down research to a few communities.
3.2. Beliefs and Practices
These religious beliefs often had an impact on the everyday life of group members, usually through influencing choices relating to employment or career and producing a strong sense of common identity and morality. But for the present purposes, it is in the realm of religious or spiritual practices that we shall find the greatest impact of these beliefs. By practices, I mean the observable rituals and behaviors in which religion or spirituality is brought to bear upon the world or in which the world is interpreted in light of religion.
Since religious beliefs and practices are usually intertwined, this will be a discussion of both beliefs and practices. First, I will outline the kinds of beliefs religious members held and then describe their practices. Beliefs among the groups studied were varied in content, from traditional Christian beliefs up through many forms of New Age thought to a relatively unstructured theism. Common to all the groups was a belief in some higher power or powers. Usually, adherents thought of themselves as spiritual in some sense, but they did not see this as implying a separation between the sacred and the profane. Often, they said that their spirituality was more a way of looking at the world than a specific set of entities or beliefs. Some groups had a strong environmentalist ethic, and a few were actively involved in various types of political activism. This sometimes amounted to a displacement of the expected religious goals, a trend noted by others studying modern forms of religion. For example, Hunt and Yallop (1996) report that in New Zealand, Hindu and Buddhist communities were felt by their members to be insufficiently concerned with their nation’s issues, and so they formed the Ecumenical Coalition for Social Justice.
3.3. Rituals and Ceremonies
ND: The research of religious rituals proves to be a difficult and somewhat slow process. The very nature of rituals is that they are complex, multi-layered, and often esoteric, that they are resistant to a surface reading and need to be understood from within. There is a practical implication of this in Durkheim’s argument, “One can only grasp the religious nature of the rites by participating in them and experiencing the emotions that are linked to them…” The suggestion is that the most effective way to understand the religious nature of a ritual is to take part in it. This, however, involves that the ethnographer gains acceptance and trust within the community, something which may take years and is fraught with difficulties.
According to Durkheim (1961), “Religious rituals are ways of acting that are designed to evoke and maintain a connection with supernatural beings or powers and are grounded on the assumption that the prescribed forms of action hold some specific and intrinsic efficacy.” It is this connection with the divine and through this with the higher self that defines religious ritual as different from other forms of ritual. Religious rituals vary in form, content, and frequency. There is no all-embracing definition or explanation of what constitutes a religious ritual, nor is there an essentialist approach that can denote what is and what isn’t a religious ritual. However, insights can be made into the nature of a ritual through the gathering of empirical data.
Leaving out the predictable topic, “Here is an interesting” and “Below is mentioned”:
3.4. Social Dynamics and Hierarchies
The shared experience of Catholic guilt can also act as a method of social control. A Catholic informant from Sheffield reported that when they were growing up, if they had misbehaved in some way they would invariably be reprimanded by a member of the Catholic community other than their parents in some cases because of a shared understanding between the two parties that the child had done wrong.
A classic example given was when an informant had engaged in some light-hearted banter with a colleague at work, but had offended the colleague with a comment that he made. The informant reported that they jokingly said to their colleague “I’m so good at offending people, I can do it accidentally.” The reference to his Catholic guilt became apparent when he shared this experience with fellow Catholics and they were all able to laugh about it together.
For the Catholic community, one of the major themes that emerged from the research is that of Catholic guilt. The informants in this study reported that Catholic guilt, a sense of feeling wrong or sinful about something you have done, is a shared experience within the Catholic community and is a unique identifying feature of being Catholic. They reported that this sense of guilt stems from the emphasis within Catholic teaching on sin and has become a social phenomenon because individuals within the community can relate to each other through it on a personal level.
Religious communities are inherently social places and are often characterized by complex social structures and hierarchies. It is therefore important to examine how social dynamics within communities can affect the way in which religion is practiced and how these dynamics shape community identity.
4. Conclusion
Probably the most important concept to the study of the sacred and the profane is that a thing can be real without being empirical, material, or even possible. This concept allows for the discovery of a reality that is separate from the everyday, using the comparison to the profane reality as a means to uncover its nature and also the reasons why it has become separated. Overall, I feel that the theory of the sacred and the profane is an important aspect of the study of religion by means of ethnography because it is trying to highlight different realities within a single culture.
I feel that the study of the sacred and the profane is a crucial aspect of the ethnography of religion because it provides a means by which two different realities can be discovered and compared within a single culture. The concept of religious symbols or ritual acts, which presuppose the existence of the sacred and the profane, is another area where much has been written. While Durkheim was the founder of substantial research in this concept, Geertz believed that it was a means for understanding the way in which a person imposes order on the structure of reality.
It is essential to recognize that ethnography is categorized as the study of culture in its entirety. For Durkheim, the sacred and the profane is a conception of the human experience of a reality that is divided into two radically different forms. These two separate forms research essay pro papers owl are evidenced in the sacred, which is an extraordinary reality leading to reverence and awe. It is set apart and viewed as something totally apart from society. Conversely, the profane is identified as being directly related to the sacred. It is the everyday reality, and it is the concept or object’s context that determines whether it is sacred or profane.
4.1. Summary of Findings
The research question for the study was an open-ended exploratory question: “What is the nature of religious experience?” My argument in this dissertation is that to study the nature of religious experience, we need to become involved in the day-to-day practice of religious life. The practice of participation and observation is central to the argument and methodology of this dissertation. It is ethnomethodologist Harold Garfinkel’s notion of ‘doing social on social facts’ that I would argue is at the heart of the immersive research methods employed in this study. To do religious on religious facts. To see how religion is enacted in practice. This mode of inquiry is at odds with interview-based modes of research in which religious experience is understood as a form of individual perception that can be accessed through simply talking to people about it. It seeks an account of what religious experience felt like to those who were having it and its effect on their lives as it was being lived, not as an afterthought.
Upon the completion of a religious conversion experience to Christianity, I felt a need to find out about other religious traditions. It was the impetus of the Hindu Hare Krishna movement to go out and ‘seekers’ and convert them to their faith that I found interesting. I experienced a conversion attempt and lived in the Hare Krishna temple for one year. This experience was notable in that it replicated identical life circumstances and events which occurred in my own religious experience in Christianity some years before. This split in experience between two different religions added an interesting comparative element to the study. The anagogic process of my previous conversion was a point of reference for how my newfound change in religious identity had affected the feel of daily life and the underlying perception of self and the world.
Although these instances provided interesting points of comparison, I saw that it did not suffice to study a religion at the level of understanding transformation of religious identity in a sweeping attempt to view the enacting of a religious fact on society. This led to the study of Catholicism in the Society of St. Pius X and their lay community. It was during this study that through participant observation of Catholic religious life and recent history, I thought the observer-known truths of religious theology and faith could be balanced with the study of how people experience and identify with their proposed religious fact.
My three-month field study of the Society of Saint Pius X was concluded due to field events that were beyond the scope of this dissertation and a failure to obtain sufficient participation in religious events, notably the mass. After some time and further study of Catholic traditionalists and their beliefs, I had become inquisitive about whether their religiosity was much different from normal post-Vatican II Catholicism and whether there were any parallel behaviors and religious events with other Christians of the same denomination. I feared that my previous study would have been an isolant view on a dissident group and would not speak about Catholicism as a whole. The decision to study Episcopalian Anglo-Catholics was again a historic repetition of my own past behavior where I attempted in my youth to become fleer stuck between two church communities.
4.2. Contributions to the Field
Any research on the level of depth and endurance presented within this project needs to prepare for an increased acceptance of tradition-breaking methods. An example of sociological research such as this could be considered innovative simply for the grant acceptance. For any research past the phase of grant proposal which involves leaving the country and learning a new language, the standard in the field is to translate a previous instrument into the new language and use statistical methods to ensure reliability and validity. This type of practice-method replication falls short in sensitivity and accommodation of the new culture and is likely to produce data from the insider perspective which is false or biased due to mistranslation. With the high level of recent critiques concerned with the affect of research practice on data validity in the sociological research, the reflexive research model, which assesses each prior research step for potential affect on the subject and produces richly valid data from the insider perspective, is becoming a standard which enduring research should adopt. This project has successfully employed the reflexive model by detailing the potential affects and required changes in research plan caused by initial data from embassy staff and Christian community leaders, and by revealing the continual refinement of our understanding of La Santa Muerte and prevailing Mexican culture through data analysis and constant comparison with previous field notes. An increased demonstration of tradition-breaking research such as the reflexive model will greatly affect the ever globalizing sociological field toward increased tolerance and understanding of various cultures and will close the gap between data produced by outsider and insider perspectives.
4.3. Limitations and Future Research
Additionally, I had returned from long-term fieldwork in Malawi only four months prior to leaving for this research. While this clearly affected my research in terms of the learning curve and time put in, the effect is deeper. I feel that in my short time in this research, I merely managed to scratch the surface of what might be understood through participant observation of Christian worship among the Asante. As I said earlier, it was my month in Malawi going to church that first made me understand that there was something much richer going on in Christian worship than I had ever suspected. I believe that given enough time I would be able to repay some of the insights from Malawi and make great strides in understanding the ways in which Asante Christianity both is and is not a means of joining with the “culturally dominant”.
During the course of my research, I noted certain limitations that were imposed upon me by my identity as a white male. These limitations are due to the fact that certain Asante believe that meeting the gaze of a member of authority can cause madness or infertility. This was not communicated in my initial interviews, but I later found it out through informal conversation. As I moved towards spending more time with Asante, seeing daily life activities, I found that some people feel uncomfortable in my presence and attempt to avoid it. This indicates to me that my initial subject pool is different from those who spend a great deal of time avoiding me, but I cannot effectively follow this up. All of these are issues that I cannot circumvent, but they serve to restrict the findings and temper the theoretical insights that I can offer.

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