Sites Around the World
By Gordon Klco
This trip has taken me to places
physically and mentally that I never thought I would go to. At the beginning of the voyage I was
presented with the task of conducting a multi-sited ethnography on a
my choice. After traveling for awhile, I
found that I was visiting religious sites in every country. No matter where I was, I could find some sort
of religious site. I decided to conduct
a study of the different ways religious space is used in the many sites
visited during my trip around the world. All
religions use the space they set aside for worship
differently. It is interesting to compare
and contrast the
way in which they do this.
Marcus in "Ethnography in of the World System: the
Emergence of a
Multi-Sited Ethnography" talks about the emerging
field of multi-sited ethnography and
the way it
benefits contemporary global anthropology. The
use of multiple sites is a lifesaver for me. I
did not have enough time in one place to write a full
one site, so the fact that I can use several different sites allows me
to do my
is my first attempt at any kind of ethnography so my field methods were
scattered and based on serendipity for the most part.
The only country in which I knew I was going
to a religious site before I arrived was Vietnam.
Most of my fieldwork was done through
observation. I was only in the countries
for a few days and at the sites for only a few hours at the most. This made it difficult for me to kindle
relationships that would give me the chance for interviews or “insider
information”. The descriptions and
feelings that I have written in each mini-ethnography are all things
observed and felt at the sites. Here are
three small mini-ethnographies.
taken me to many different places and states of mind.
Trying to do fieldwork in each country made
me see things that I never would have looked for if I was just
traveling. It was interesting to look at
space is used because each religious site is so different.
that I visited in Vietnam
was almost strictly for the entertainment of tourists.
The people were “performing” a ceremony
instead of actually worshiping. The
temple itself and the surrounding village was nicely set up for
hundreds of tourists to come through everyday. There
were nice restaurants within walking distance from
the temple and
the temple was set up so that people could stand above the “performers”
could see. This gave it a kind of
“sporting event” feel. This was a
tourist destination. It was hard for me
to put aside my feelings of disgust and observe the service. I was so caught up in the fact that “this is
fake!” that I didn’t do my best fieldwork. It
was a learning experience.
I found a
“raw” religious space. No one was
romanticizing the people or the space. The
site was the Reclining Buddha in Yangon. This site was very refreshing because it was
free of the feel of a tourist attraction like the nearby Shwedagon
Pagoda. People here were very open and
easy to talk
to. In Monique Skidmore’s article
“Darker Than Midnight”, she talks about how fearful people in Burma
talk about the government and social problems. I
did not have that problem at the Reclining Buddha.
People there were incredibly open with me and
told me their opinion without me even asking. People
used this space as more of a community center
rather than a
religious site. While some people were
praying, others were spending time with their families or friends. I think people congregated in such places
because the Buddhist temples are the nicest buildings in the country.
“developing world” the religious sites fit into the countries more. The disparity between the people and the
religion became less pronounced. I was
searching for one last site for my ethnography and I wanted it to be
drastically different then my other two sites. I
found that site in “westernized” Spain.
I decided to do my field work at the
cathedral in Seville. I thought this beautiful cathedral would be
the best place to finish my field work off. When
I walked into the building I was immediately taken
aback. Once again I was looking at a
religious site. The situation was much
like that of the Cao Dai temple. The
authors of “Poetics of Resistance” talk about having to put aside the
analytical processes in which they had been taught and just take the
stories for what they were. For me I had
to put aside my personal feelings on the exploitation of religion for
and just observe the scene. The
cathedral had been transformed into a museum and the people there for
were in a small corner away from everyone. It
appears to be hard to balance profit and religion.
Now that I’m at the end of this
long journey I have begun to look back and reflect at what I have
experienced. After reflecting on my
fieldwork for Anthropology: Field
Methods it has become clear that I am witness to a global pattern that
looking for. Globalization and
capitalism has begun to affect everything, even religion.
Religion has become a tool for marketing and
profit making. Every religious site,
even in Burma,
had some sort of gift shop or knickknack sold close by.
This creates changes in how the religious
spaces are being used. In many temples,
churches and mosques that I went into there were separate areas for
areas for the tourist that were always coming in and out.
The dual use of the space was amazing to see.
In countless places the people praying or
worshiping had been pushed into small corners while the tourist had the
majority of the space to walk through. Religious
spaces are no longer “sacred” they are becoming
sites that try to balance religion and commerce on a pedestal only big
for one. One has to fall off, which one
will it be?