What Does Social Situation or Setting Define?
Indeed, social settings and situations define the difference in language, race, religion, sports, and social events that exist in humanity. The variance in perspectives and the cornerstone of the identity of human beings constitute the social settings and culture differences. The variables in culture are often ignored today but are crucial especially when individuals immerse themselves into different social situations by conducting research and a detailed study of the setting. A person can familiarize himself by becoming aware of these social settings through experience, travel, work, training, and education. Engaging and participating in social settings give a deeper insight into the unfamiliar which is achieved through active engagement during the research (Atkinson, Paul pg 175).
Religion is one such social setting and situation in which religious ceremonies carried out from time to time helps provide a deeper understanding of unfamiliarity (Nynäs, Peter, pg29). Islam is a religion where Muslims commemorate sacred times and days with great significance. During these ceremonies, regular social events such as commerce and work are stopped temporarily to respect the Islamic religious ceremony at hand. Eid Al-Fitr is a religious ceremony in Islam that I am unfamiliar with and can immerse myself to conducting research.
Ethnographic observations and notes on the Eid Al-Fitr ceremony
Eid Al-Fitr ceremony is both a festival and a commemoration of breaking the fast marking the conclusion of the period of Ramadan month-long fasting (Findley, Henry, et al., pg 73). In this formal setting, thankfulness and celebrations are conducted in the mosque. I carried out the research study on this religious ceremony based on two principle activities. First, an ethnographic field research in which I immersed myself into the social setting of the religious ceremony to participate and make observations on the events. I was not intimately familiar with the Eid Al-Fitr ceremony, but through the ethnographic research, I got to know the people involved who were mainly Muslims and guests congregated in groups of triads in round tables in the mosque. During my involvement, I participated in the official reception of guests, gift-giving to the arriving guests, and the eating ceremony. Participation is significant because it helps in making notes and observing the ongoing activities as well as developing mutual relations with an understanding and familiarization of the religious ceremony. Indeed, participant observation and ethnography can be used to characterize the basic approach to observation. Secondly, as an ethnographer, I make and write down systematically all the comments with an informal learning and experiences. These two activities are interconnected and when applied to a strange social world give an idea into the events of Eid Al-Fitr ceremony.
I made various observations during my participation in the ceremony. I observed that individuals involved were families and friends, both Muslims and non-Muslims with greetings of “Id Mubarak,” May Allah bless the feast. I also noted that the practice and ritual that was characterized by joyfulness, thankfulness, and togetherness among the participants in this religious ceremony. Additionally, I observed various activities that everyone present participated in, for instance, the most senior cleric also called “Imam” offered a prayer before the groups in triads were served with foods. Each triad comprised of all gender with different ages mixed. However, the senior most clerics sat in their tables with no women allowed to mix with them. Guests regardless of the class and race were allowed to participate freely with the other guests.
Importantly, the location is a Gemeinschaft location because the ceremony is a close individual, friendship, and family ties. The ceremony brings together socially related persons with close binding ties. The Eid Al-Fitr ceremony marks the end of Ramadan, which is a common belief among the Muslim community, so the location is said to be Gemeinschaft as it brings together an association of people with a shared and common faith in religion, fellowship and attitudes of happiness to break the fast.
Norms, Statutes, Roles and Decorative Beads
The Eid Al-Fitr ceremony in most cases is a great justification for gluttony. A vast quantity of foods and drinks are consumed. During this day, it is a norm to wear new clothes with decorations. Men and women are overdressed with beaded decorations and flowing robes respectively. Each family congregates who live far travel the pilgrimage back home for the celebrations. As a role, some Muslims are tasked with the function of using multi-tasking skills and communication tools to organize people. They make it a norm to draw up the matrices to see those who are due to visit to avoid causing offense. Additionally, it is a norm to visit the sick, give charity to the poor and less fortunate, paying respect to the dead and conversing with folks who have a lonely Eid. The statutory marking during my ethnographic observation was that traditional ways are used to determine this ceremony. These include an appearance of the new moon as well as the calendar dates. In short, as a norm, there are usually no mutual consensuses among Muslims on this date. There is the institutionalization of the Pythonesque absurdity (Spradley, James P pg 63). The triads play different roles, for instance, the most senior Imams offer prayer, women, and girls cook and serve the food while men provide reception and gifts to the guests.
Observations as an outsider and why I might be incorrect about the assumptions
As an outsider, I observed a pattern of guests wearing new and decorated clothes, visiting graves of families and eating in congregate triads, celebrations, prayer, and abundant joy. I observed children climbing onto their parent’s laps, running and talking to each other, exchanging gifts. These observations about children were a new incident for me because in my religion children are tucked away in church basements and nurseries. The celebration was filled with colors and sounds, complexities and stories from everyone, laughter, and noises of celebration with a palpable collective energy among everyone. The mood I observed was celebratory. I might be incorrect about the mood because my participation as an ethnographer may inevitably have significant implications on what is taking place. Indeed, any ethnographer is not entirely neutrally detached from the independent setting (Street, Brian V pg 81). The implication of this is bias and being carried away by the celebrations and assuming that even paying respect to the dead is a celebration. Ethnographers like me get intertwined into the celebratory phenomena hence eliminating the aspect of objectivity and neutrality in making independent observations (de Sardan, Jean-Pierre Olivier pg, 96). Moreover, my assumptions may be wrong in the sense that immersing myself into this celebration and feeling like one of them may expose particular points of view and changing priorities that may not lead to the original objectives of the research.
Examination of bias in ethnographic observation
My objectivity and bias during the observation in the ceremony arise due to two situations. Intimate knowledge and familiarity with the social setting as well as interactions with participants can to a larger extent subtly alter the observations and contribute to bias. However, I was unfamiliar with the religion and ceremony, so in that context, my bias does not arise. Participant interactions with those involved, social status, life experiences, and cultural orientation contribute to bias during the ethnographic participation (Warikoo, Natasha et al., pg 509). Furthermore, my interests as a researcher and those of the audience contribute to bias with the acknowledgment that cultural differences and representations contribute to partiality and bias. Additionally, diversity of perspectives could cause my bias during the observations in an unfamiliar ceremony. Smith, Joanna, and Helen Noble (pg 100) point out that various factors may influence my reporting on observations such as communication ethnography, linguistics, cultural theories, and social interactions. Carrying out double blind studies is the key to avoiding bias.
Benefits and flaws of ethnographic observation
The main advantage of ethnographic observation is that it provides an in-depth understanding and validity on the culture and ceremony that is unfamiliar and hence helps provide a good explanting on the content and meaning of the different social setting under research (MacLeod, Anna, pg 143). It also provides for the access to people and their culture in real life situations during participation in the religious ceremony. Participant observation also allows for first-hand data collection which ensures the accuracy of the information obtained. However, this method is time-consuming as the researcher has to immerse himself in the culture, understand and integrate the norms. It is also subjective and biased regarding the role of the researcher. Ethical contraventions may arise when researching on covert social settings that may affect the validity and accuracy of the findings. Furthermore, conflict of roles among researchers that arise affect the generalization of the data obtain (Goyal, Lakshmi pg, 269)
Atkinson, Paul. For ethnography. Sage, 2014.
de Sardan, Jean-Pierre Olivier. "From Observation to Description." Epistemology, Fieldwork, and Anthropology. Palgrave Macmillan US, 2015. 83-102.
Findley, Henry, et al. "Accommodating Islam in the Workplace." Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences 26.2 (2014): 73.
Goyal, Lakshmi. "Marking a Decade with Storytelling." (2017): 269.
MacLeod, Anna. "Understanding the Culture of Graduate Medical Education: The Benefits of Ethnographic Research." Journal of graduate medical education 8.2 (2016): 142-144.
Nynäs, Peter. Religion, gender, and sexuality in everyday life. Routledge, 2016.
Smith, Joanna, and Helen Noble. "Bias in research." Evidence-Based Nursing 17.4 (2014): 100-101.
Spradley, James P. Participant observation. Waveland Press, 2016.
Street, Brian V. Social literacies: Critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography, and education. Routledge, 2014.
Warikoo, Natasha, et al. "Examining racial bias in education: A new approach." Educational Researcher 45.9 (2016): 508-514.
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