Understanding Culture

Food, Faith, & Culture
Dr. Fred Foy Strang
For this exercise you are conducting anthropological “field research” through participation,
participant observation, and data recording. This is a simple foray into the field so it does not
include a formal literature review or establishment of hypotheses. Our task is simply to
experience and reflect upon a ‘hands-on’ opportunity for actual observation, data recording, and
preliminary analysis.
Food is an important part of everyone’s culture. Food is also connected to religious
observance and spiritual ritual for many different faiths, including Christianity, Judaism,
Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. The role of food in cultural practices and religious beliefs is
complex and varies among individuals and communities.
Focus on the Issue (Food, Faith, & Culture)
• To examine local and non-indigenous cultural influences reflected at various at public
eateries?
• To discover where these distinctives find convergence or how local culture is
reflected in the eatery/food.
• To observe social dynamics and cultural practices in public eateries and postulate
connections to local culture and/or religion.
Focus on Observation
What are the surroundings? What are people wearing? What language(s)/dialect(s) is/are
spoken? What customs are observed? Who is involved in these customs? What do you
notice about the participants (workers/owners/customers).
Focus on Interaction
Who is serving you? What do you observe about their work? Are their other people
involved in the establishment? What are their roles? You are encouraged to engage in ‘nondirective interviewing’ on the topic of food and its relationship to culture & religion. (This is
simply getting a responder to talk and converse about a certain subject as opposed to
‘directive interviewing’ which asks specific questions or utilizes surveys.)

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