| CSI Essay #3: Ethnography of Religion – Due Nov 23rd
In this essay, you will practice writing ethnography. This is a kind of writing where you describe a particular place or event that you personally have witnessed in a way that incorporates not only a careful observation of what’s going on, but also enough context to give the reader an idea of something larger— something social or cultural—about that particular place or event. This is what ethnographers call “thick description”
Practicing ethnographic writing involves taking note not only of what’s going on “on stage,” but also what’s happening “off stage.” For instance, at an event where a particular speaker is literally on a stage (e.g. at a church service or political rally), don’t just listen to what the speaker is saying, but look around to see the people in the audience. Are they listening quietly? Standing? Distracted? Engaged? Coming in and out of the audience? Having personal conversations? Who are they? Do they come directly to the event on their own or with family? What do they do beforehand? Afterwards? In other words, what story is going on in the spotlight, and what story is taking place outside of the spotlight?
Another good ethnographer’s trick is to pay attention to other senses: what do you smell? Taste? Does traffic noise impinge upon what’s going on? Is the music loud or quiet? What does the space look like? What feelings does it intend to give, and what feelings does it indeed give?
As you write, there is no need to try and write as though you’re not there – ethnographers are present in their fieldsites and as such have a distinct influence upon it. Don’t hide that fact.
In this exercise, you will attend a religious service or event and write a 1,000 – word essay describing it. This should be a service of a religion of which you are not a practitioner. This should also keep in mind the broad definition of “religion” that many of our authors have used: nationalist gatherings, musical events, sports matches – all of these might be considered “religious” in Durkheim’s sense. There is no need for outside sources in this essay, but do be alert for things that remind you of the theories that we’ve read in class.
An A paper will incorporate some theoretical thought and give new insight to some of the ideas we’ve been speaking about in class.
A B paper will describe lucidly and present a religious site or event in a new light.
A partial list of religious sites and services
NOTE: PLEASE BE RESEPECTFUL AND DRESS APPROPRIATELY. PLEASE VISIT THE WEBSITE OF THE TEMPLE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THAT MEANS.
For more information, see http://iro.sg/
Note: Hindu and Buddhist temples, while they may have regular services, are often attended whenever worshippers feel the need to go. You can visit these as you like, but bear in mind your experience might be more vivid were you to go when many people are there worshipping.
Sri Mariamman (S Bridge Rd) – Open during the day, prayers at 6:30
Sri Veeramakaliamman (Serangoon Rd) – Open daily, prayers at 6:30
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum – open daily
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery – open daily
Meditation every Weds until 12/11, 7:30-9:00 PM
Chanting: Fri 8:00PM, Sat, 7:30 PM, Sun 9:15 AM, Sun 2:00PM
Wat Ananda Metyarama
Chanting: 6:40 AM (every day), Sun 9:00 AM, Every day 7:00 PM
New Creation Church (Star Vista) – Sunday 8:30AM, 11:30AM, 2:30PM, 5:30PM
Catholic churches (various locations) – SAT 4PM, 6PM / SUN 6AM, 8AM, 10AM, 12PM, 12:40PM, 4PM, 6PM, 8PM / WEEKDAY 6AM, 8AM, 10AM, 4PM, 6PM.
(May not be able to attend prayer services)
Masjid Sultan (Kampong Glam): Monday-Sunday 9AM – 12PM / 2PM – 4PM
Friday 2:30PM – 4PM.
Others: Singapore also has two Jewish synagogues, Taoist temples, and of course many other events that might be “religious” in nature, if not in name. Please go and find your own!