The present paper is based on an engaged ethnographic study carried out in two French Carmelite convents and it attempts to outline and shed some light on the issue of doing ethnographic research within introvert, closed and silent religious groups. In this respect, the research field of cloistered life represents an extreme situation on both the operational and methodological levels: on the one hand, it allows the researcher, once she has entered the convent, to reflect upon the actual meaning of living in a convent from an internal standpoint, including the spatial, perceptual and cognitive levels alike; on the other hand, it is an opportunity for the researcher to address the methodological implications in the light of what she can see, hear and silence. Whilst these sensory levels are present in any field work-related situation and define its articulations and boundaries, they play a central role in cloistered life. The construction of the nun-woman takes place through her reduction to essentials, eliminating all that is superfluous both on a material level and on an emotional and linguistic one. At the same time, this also modifies the figure of the researcher and her way of doing field research. Indeed, in order to know more about the groups under consideration it is necessary not only to share their daily life, but also, and more generally, to respond to the historical-anthropological question of how to address the study of purely religious institutions.

Ethnography of Cloistered Life: Field Work into Silence / F. Sbardella. - In: ANNUAL REVIEW OF THE SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION. - ISSN 1877-5233. - STAMPA. - 5:(2014), pp. 55-70. [10.1163/9789004283503_005]

Ethnography of Cloistered Life: Field Work into Silence

SBARDELLA, FRANCESCA
2014

Abstract

The present paper is based on an engaged ethnographic study carried out in two French Carmelite convents and it attempts to outline and shed some light on the issue of doing ethnographic research within introvert, closed and silent religious groups. In this respect, the research field of cloistered life represents an extreme situation on both the operational and methodological levels: on the one hand, it allows the researcher, once she has entered the convent, to reflect upon the actual meaning of living in a convent from an internal standpoint, including the spatial, perceptual and cognitive levels alike; on the other hand, it is an opportunity for the researcher to address the methodological implications in the light of what she can see, hear and silence. Whilst these sensory levels are present in any field work-related situation and define its articulations and boundaries, they play a central role in cloistered life. The construction of the nun-woman takes place through her reduction to essentials, eliminating all that is superfluous both on a material level and on an emotional and linguistic one. At the same time, this also modifies the figure of the researcher and her way of doing field research. Indeed, in order to know more about the groups under consideration it is necessary not only to share their daily life, but also, and more generally, to respond to the historical-anthropological question of how to address the study of purely religious institutions.
2014
Ethnography of Cloistered Life: Field Work into Silence / F. Sbardella. - In: ANNUAL REVIEW OF THE SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION. - ISSN 1877-5233. - STAMPA. - 5:(2014), pp. 55-70. [10.1163/9789004283503_005]
F. Sbardella
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/191025
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