Anthropology is a scientific discipline that holistically studies society. As a science, this discipline focuses on human relationships and the different ways to maintain order in the community. Holistic living and interaction of people require mastery of social skills and other observational tools. The observation technique and response to human society depends on objective standards. Ethnography involves active observation, and this leads to realistic attainment results in societal living. Participant observation is the primary method in the achievement of real outcomes and analysis of society. The focus of this paper is to justify the use of observational participation in gaining practical information about the community.
A direct contact is a useful tool in gaining information and insight into the various societal elements and other factors that determine people’s way of living. According to Xygalatas (2016), participant observation is an objective method of understanding the various rituals and their role in asserting the culture of the people (Xygalatas, 2016, min 5). In some communities, rituals are part of the societal needs, and observation is part of the processes. When individuals fail to observe these rituals, they are rendered outcasts in society. Therefore, ceremonies and other societal processes act as cohesive measures for the community. Participant observation is a way of gaining an insider understanding of a particular culture.
Moreover, direct contact helps in the appreciation of people’s culture. The different cultural elements, such as language, rituals, and values, are part of a people’s identity. Direct observation ensures an extensive understanding of different systems in society. For example, knowledge of the political organization in the community exposes the role of power and status in society. The direct interaction of various elements in society helps in the maintenance of order and stability. According to Xygalatas (2016), features such as rituals are meant to enhance social cohesion and assert societal beliefs. These societal elements have powerful psychological influences on society, and they are integral in behavioral regulation (Xygalatas, 2016, min 16). In essence, the maintenance of order in the community relies on the preservation of different societal activities, observation of values, beliefs, and rituals in society.
Also, direct contact is necessitated by language, which is nature’s way of connecting people or disrupting them. According to Pagel (2011), language has been used to create human connections and influence people’s attitudes and connection abilities. Pagel cites that languages are a communication tool that can unite or separate a group of people. The failure to communicate limits an individual’s ability to gain information about a particular group (Pagel, 2011). Direct contact is a useful vehicle in increasing objective details on society since the observation techniques lead to the acquisition of unbiased information.
Participant or direct observation is part of social learning processes, which lead to the acquisition of unfiltered information about a society. Social learning ensures the immediate observer benefits from the knowledge gained in the research. Pagel (2011) refers to social learning as “visual theft” in which the direct observer learns through observation. Direct contact contributes to the rise of communication abilities, which explains the evolution of language. Language enhances communication between direct observers and the communities, and this enhances cooperation and meaningful exchanges (Pagel, 2011). In essence, direct contact is crucial to ethnographic research as it enhances social learning and communication through language.
Researching with religious groups and religious practices is a delicate process since religion is a contagious topic in society. Spiritual practices and groups bear varying opinions and beliefs and thus a cause of disorder in the society. Ethical issues involved in religious research include the limitation of common vulnerabilities and special protections for the different practices and rituals. The community members may be unable to explain the origins and the significance of religious traditions. Religion research should be objective to avoid stigmatization of specific religions. In close-knit communities, the ability to maintain privacy and confidentiality is compromised and thus affecting the research responses (O’Neill, 2012). Therefore, research on religious practices and groups requires a delicate touch to preserve objectivity in reactions.
A participant observer is likely to change the research findings by inserting personal thoughts, personal bias, and prejudices against the group into the results. The presence of an observer in the group can affect the observations in the sense that human beings are prone to emotions. For example, language can be used to implant ideas into people’s mind. The use of language to influence an observer’s mind and perception is a sure way of disrupting ethnographic research (Pagel, 2011). The exposure to people’s way of living can compromise an observer’s objectivity, and thus, the result is based on feelings and other subjective views. Moreover, human contact often influences attitudes and emotions. Additionally, exposure to a group of people can cloud an observer’s judgment and sense of objectivity. Therefore, the inclusion of personal thoughts in ethnographic observation taints the research findings.
Anthropology studies different elements of society. The ethnographic approach to social studies asserts objectivity and reduces researcher bias towards the diverse cultural aspects of the specific group. Direct contact is integral in ethnographic research since it eases the process of acquiring information. Direct contact, also known as participant observation, is the inside view of a given society. Religious elements vary across communities, and researchers should focus on neutrality to avoid radical responses towards their findings.
O’Neill, D. (2012). What is Anthropology: Topic Menu. Retrieved from https://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/intro2/default.htm
Pagel, M. (2011). TED: Ideas worth spreading [Video file]. Retrieved from https://embed.ted.com/talks/mark_pagel_how_language_transformed_humanity
Xygalatas, D. (2016, April 1). The power of ritual | Dimitris Xygalatas | TEDxAthens [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrjCLvSQ_cw
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