Conduct field observations of religious practices with consideration for permission to observe, etiquette, and collection of observations from the participants.
Analyze field observations of religious practice applying multiple anthropological lenses to describe different aspects of the practice.
Identify a religious group or community near where you live. This community should be one that you are not familiar with but is open to visitors. Pick one that has regular meetings or observances.
Where possible, call and ask first if observing visitors are welcome. If you would not be welcome, thank the person for his or her time and pick a different group.
Ask about expected behavior and forms of dress for visitors. Some questions you might want to ask are:
What manner of dress is expected of a visitor of your gender? (head covering, hats, or skirts for women) What forms of dress are discouraged? (leather clothing, bright colors, jeans)
Which parts of the service are restricted to members?
Where and how can you sit and observe as a visitor?
Will you be expected to introduce yourself, or be introduced?
What other taboos or norms should you be aware of?
Talk to people. You will get a lot more out of this if you extend yourself: Introduce yourself, ask questions, be honest about why you are there, and keep an open mind. This may be the hardest part of doing fieldwork, but it is also the most informative.
Many groups prohibit photography during services, so please ask before you take a photo inside.
If time permits, try to schedule two visits. The first visit can help you become familiar with the people, space, and the practices.
Arrive on time. Stay for the duration of the event. If there’s a program or other documents that are useful, keep them for later reference.
Immediately after the service take notes. Describe who and what you observed. You can use sketches or photographs to help you.
Drawing on your field notes and any other materials you collected at the site, organize a description of the service, and then develop an analysis using one or more of the concepts discussed in this course. Focus most of your energy on your analysis. For example, you might examine how the service used a particular mode of liturgical language or switches among multiple languages.
This is NOT a research project, for your analysis, please stick with what you saw, what you heard, and what you experienced in addition to what you learned by talking with people there!