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Ethnography is a form of research practice in which the researcher immerses themselves in a specific social and cultural context. Scholars involved in the field of religious studies often interview religious practitioners in order to get a better idea of “lived religion”, or how individuals live out their religious beliefs, as it can often differ greatly from official doctrine and sacred texts. In order to get a better idea of the work done in the field of religious studies and how individuals live out their religious beliefs, you will be conducting an interview with someone who self-identifies as a practitioner of one of the world’s religion. I ask that you choose a religion that is different from your own to write about (if you practice a religion).
In order to complete this assignment, you will need to:
Choose an individual in your life that you would like to interview and ask him/her if they would be willing to be interviewed for your project. This could be a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker, classmate, etc. You can also contact a local house of worship if you are interested in interviewing someone from a particular faith but don’t know anyone personally.
Schedule a time for the interview that is convenient for them and you. Since we are currently living in the time of the pandemic, the interview will likely be conducted over phone or video-conferencing software (like skype, google hangout, zoom, etc) unless you interview someone that you live with.
Compose a list of at least 10 questions for this individual about their religious beliefs and practices. You may choose from the list of example questions listed below, or compose your own questions.
Interview your subject. The interview should focus on their religious beliefs and practices.
You should record the interview in some way – if it is done in person you could either bring a notebook and write down the subject’s answers or bring an audio recorder of some type (most smartphones have this capability). This will aid you in writing your report. Make sure you inform your subject you’ll be recording and okay it with them.
Compose a 1000-word paper discussing the interview. The paper should address the following questions:
Who is your interview subject? What religious tradition are they a member of? Why did you choose this individual?
Describe the interview itself: what questions were asked and how did the individual respond?
You will not be able to include every question and answer, so focus on the responses that were most interesting to you
This should not be a transcript of the interview, but a summary of the questions you asked and how the subject responded to them.
Describe your subject’s demeanor: Did he/she seem nervous? Did they enjoy speaking about their religious beliefs? Had they ever spoken about them before to another person? Which aspect of their religious beliefs did they seem to enjoy speaking about the most? The least?
Did you learn anything new about the religious tradition that your subject practices?
You should also include a paragraph about your own response to the interview: did you learn something new about this person? Was it interesting to learn about his/her religious beliefs/practices? Were any of their answers surprising or not?
Please include a word count at the end of the report.
I recommend that you get started on setting up your interview as soon as possible as scheduling can often take longer than you think!
Example Questions: (You are free to come up with your own questions too, of course)
How and why did you become a member of this religious tradition?
If you grew up in this religious tradition, was there a time that you decided to commit yourself independently to this tradition?
Do you perform any daily (or weekly, monthly, etc) religious rituals?
How long have you performed this ritual?
Do you believe in a higher power?
How do you describe this higher power? Or higher reality?
How does your religious tradition view American society?
Who is allowed to be an authority figure in your religious tradition?
How does your religion influence your daily life?
Are there particular texts or narratives in your religious tradition that are particularly important to you?
Have your religious beliefs changed over the course of your life?
Were there particular times during your life when you were more or less involved with your religion?
Have you ever had a religious experience that changed the way you lived your life?
How does your religion conceive of ‘the good life’?
How does your religious tradition view the issue of gender? Does it promote gender equality?
Are there any aspects of your religious tradition (ethical teachings, rituals) that you disagree with or would like to see changed?
What do you think will happen to your religious tradition in a hundred years? Do you think it will grow, diminish, or change in any way?
How do you view members of other religious traditions or those without any religion at all?
Has your religion provided you with comfort/solace during these uncertain times (in regards to coronavirus outbreak)?
Do you think that living through this outbreak will change the way you view your religion? Or change your religious tradition at all?
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