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Book: Methods for the Study of Religious Change

Chapter: Chapter 8 Fieldwork on Morality: Gossip and Secrets

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.24443


In Chapter 8 on morality the central methodological question is: how has the self of the fieldworker/ethnographer to deal with moral dilemmas when this self participates in the moral universe of the other? In this chapter the researcher demonstrates that insight into the deeper layers of morality in religion can be gained by opening up culturally repressed genres of speech, like gossip. By gossip people create a shared moral universe. The problem with which one has to deal ( = to play seriously) is that, when the fieldworker participates in gossip, she as a researcher seems almost simultaneously to break the trust generated through complicity in gossip: research seems to be inevitably a betrayal. The researcher argues that deep reflection on the inevitable involvement in doing qualitative fieldwork and on the equally inevitable betrayal of intersubjectivity is a major condition for doing honest, that is, non-judgmental fieldwork.

Chapter Contributors

  • Kim Knibbe ([email protected] - kknibbe) 'Department of the Comparative Study of Religion, Groningen University'