Islam and Covid on UK Twitter in early 2020

Dr Sean Durbin, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Manchester Metropolitan University

In addition to the ethnographic fieldwork that we are conducting across different communities in Europe for this project, we have also been working on a social media strand, aimed at helping us understand how people online were discussing religion in relation to the restrictions imposed in the early months of the pandemic from March to June 2020.

To do this we have been using a social listening platform that allows us to scrape publicly available data off the web and analyse it, making it useful to conduct discourse analysis of large amounts of naturally occurring data. In this context, scraping refers to a technique for the automated collection of online data. Scrapers are essentially bits of software code that enable researchers to automatically download data from the web, which can then be classified and modelled in different ways. 

Using boolean search terms related to Islam, Christianity and other religious traditions in conjunction with pandemic related keywords such as lockdown, COVID-19, etc, we originally hoped to see how different communities talked about what they were doing to adapt their practices to a the sudden requirement to stay indoors. However, in an effort at cross-country comparability, as well as other practical considerations, we opted instead to focus on the public discussion that was occurring online about religion/religious communities, and related issues (e.g. religious freedom).

What we have found in the UK, is that Muslims and Islam were vastly overrepresented in this online discussion. Although Muslims represent roughly 6% of the population in the UK they made up roughly 75% of the online discussion of religious groups in our data scrape. Christians and Christianity on the other hand made up only 19% of mentions online.

What accounts for this over representation? Based on our analysis of the most engaged tweets, much of the conversation around Muslims online was driven in some way by claims or beliefs that Muslims would not abide by lockdown rules, especially over the Ramadan period, and therefore would contribute to the spread of COVID-19. This topic was then spread further by other Twitter users who would mock or rebuke these claims, all of which contributed to the over-representation of Muslims in public Twitter discourse during our period of focus.

Digitalization and the Catholic community

Dr Ewa Stachowska, Institute of Social Prevention and Resocialization, University of Warsaw.

In the springtime the Polish team is focused on work in two main areas. The first one is to prepare an article entitled Digitalization and the Catholic religious community in Poland, which revolves around the role and meaning of the process of digitalization in the Catholic community. The article includes an analysis of the preliminary results of the qualitative research conducted in this community. The Catholic Church is the largest denomination in Poland, hence the first of the articles presents results concerning this community. The process of digitalization is widespread in our times, and although in the Catholic community in Poland it is noticeable that not only the direct contact is approved of, the popularity of traditional media (such as the radio and TV) is also more visible, as it performed a crucial role in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital tools have been (and still are) a form of facilitating communication and information flow in the Catholic community. However, they are identified by the respondents as an instrument shaping the “digital sacred” to a smaller degree. It is worth noting that the aforementioned direction of perceiving digital tools is more noticeable among the older generations than among the young. What is more, the Catholic community in Poland is successively becoming a “senior community”, as secularization is accelerating especially among young people (which is shown in numerous research, e.g. carried out by PEW Research Center, CBOS – Public Opinion Research Center, ESS). An interesting thread emerging from the conducted research, which will undergo a broader analysis, is the fact that on the linguistic level the respondents perceive taking part in media rituals as “viewing”. This indicates a specific “oversimplification”, or even “trivialization” (cf. N. Postman) of participation in the media liturgy.

The second area of work undertaken by the Polish team concerns the preparation of papers for the 7th International Congress of Religious Studies, which will be held in Gdynia (Poland) from 19th-21st June 2024.[1] The Congress is a cyclical event in the circle of specialists of religious studies in Poland. This year its subject is: Religions. Tradition and Modernity. The engagement of the team during the Congress involves: participating in the scientific committee, coordinating the section of: Transformations of Religiosity and Non-religiosity in Sociological Research by Ewa Stachowska, delivering a paper entitled Minority Religious Communities and Digitalization in Poland. Moreover, arrangements are being made concerning the organization of a discussion panel Religion and Digitalization during the Congress.


[1] https://www.ptr.edu.pl/index.php/o-towarzystwie/aktualnosci/item/172-vii-miedzynarodowy-kongres-religioznawczy

Technology and the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Alexandra Berg, Åbo Akademi University

Alexandra Berg, first year student at Åbo Akademi University, has assisted the Finnish Recovira-team with participant observations for the projects’ aesthetic analysis. Here you can read about her observations and experiences when visiting the Jehovah’s Witnesses last winter.

Last year, in the gloomy midwinter, we went to visit the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were a well-dressed group of people, who treated us with warmth and consideration. We attended an event set in the Kingdom Hall’s main lecture hall; a large and bright room filled with dozens of people. I was excited and a bit nervous. I had never been to a Jehovah’s Witness event before. My nervousness proved to be unnecessary, because when we arrived everyone was hospitable and did their best to make us feel welcome.

I found it very interesting to notice how highly digitised the gathering was. There were two large TV screens in the front of the hall, angled downwards, so the audience could easily see them. The TVs were actively used during the sermon, displaying text or pictures relevant to the topic. At one point, everyone who was able to, stood up and sang together, and the lyrics were shown on the TV screens. The atmosphere in the room was relaxed. I got the impression that everyone was comfortable singing, and the songs were familiar to them.  There was a separate desk in the room with computer monitors. Towards the end of the sermon, the congregation watched videos portraying scenarios one might encounter when doing mission work, and how to navigate certain situations. 

The usage of mobile phones was highly encouraged during the lecture. Almost everyone had an app containing material and resources related to the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The event’s schedule and program were available in the app, as well as reading materials, such as Bible verses, think-pieces about life and faith, and issues of Watchtower. In an interactive section during the sermon, people received prompts on their apps, and they could answer questions posed in the app.

Various speakers spoke into microphones. There were microphones located by the individual seats. Many members of the audience took their turns to answer questions or give their insights. The sound was loud enough to be clearly heard, but at a comfortable volume suited to the hall’s size and acoustic capabilities. 

I really enjoyed the event and meeting all the people. They were very friendly and happy to converse with me. I was surprised at the smooth incorporation of technology, and it was very intriguing to meet so many new people.

-Alexandra Berg

Making sense of our data

Dr Sean Durbin, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Manchester Metropolitan University

When you’ve spent the better part of 12 months, getting to know and getting involved in the communities that are participating in this research project, the amount of information that a researcher gathers can be overwhelming.

In my case, I have spent the past year with different Church of England congregations. During that time I have attended and observed regular services, and participated in community events, including evening Bible studies, weekday cooking classes, and outdoor gardening activities. I have interviewed members and leaders, and simply observed what they have been doing.

All of this is part of the repertoire of research tools that comprise ethnographic research methods, which are used to inform our understanding how these different congregations function and, in our case, interact with the virtual age. Throughout the course of conducting fieldwork like this, drafting fieldnotes about seemingly ordinary things can often be a challenge. I have often asked myself whether something is or isn’t important to jot down. You have to constantly remind yourself that what might not seem significant could end up being very important, so it’s useful make a record of it.

The end result of all of this work, though, is pages and pages of field notes outlining what I saw or experienced at each event I attended, as well as interview recordings from the over twenty interviews conducted as part of my work on this project.

Now, with all this information compiled in some form, I have the task of making sense of it all. This work involves transcribing interviews and coding them for themes and subthemes, not only so that I can develop a coherent picture of my own research findings, but also so that I can share these findings with my colleagues who have been conducting similar research in their own countries.

All of which is to say, making sense of all this data is a time consuming but vitally important part of the research process.

Image credit – Ian Panelo – Pexels

Theorizing the Concept of Community

Anne Lundahl Mauritsen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aarhus University

As the spring approaches, we in the Danish team are preparing for our upcoming writing retreat in Barcelona. Each national team in the RECOVIRA project must contribute with at least two articles and it is our ambition to dig deep into the writing of our two articles during our retreat. For now, we have planned that the first article will present analyses of the findings from the Danish fieldwork while the second article will compare results from the Danish fieldwork with the quantitative survey data formerly collected in Denmark as part of the “COVID-19: Religion and Existential Wellbeing” project [1]. While the articles are still being set up, we do have some specific ideas as to their content, especially the first article.

This first article – which will be in Danish – will dig into the theme of community and how it is conceptualized among the informants in the different religious groups. In our last blogpost, we described how the senses came into play, when the informants described how they had missed meeting physically with their group. Touching and hugging each other, having eye contact, smelling each other, and smiling to each other were described as key factors in constituting the feeling of connection and we will examine this more closely in the first article. However, while the article is based on empirical analyses, we have also been working on shaping a theoretical framework which can inform our analyses.

The concept of community is a category of practice used among folks in their everyday conversations, but it is also a category of analysis used among academics. Community has been defined and discussed by several academics, and we have chosen to focus specifically on the way sociologist Zygmunt Bauman and Axel Honneth examined the concept, since they are some of the most distinguished modern sociologists, but also because they approach community in quite different ways. Bauman, on the one hand, is rather pessimistic in how he views communities. While he acknowledges that community to many is a concept of positive connotations that symbolizes security and social coherency, he also argues that being part of a community is always in opposition to being a fully free individual, since being part of a community according to Bauman requires ‘absolute obedience’ and thus forces the individual to give up upon its freedom and trust in individuals outside said community. Honneth, on the other hand, underscores the liberating potential of communities. He argues that when the individual is part of a well-functioning, caring community, it enables the individual to express itself fully and safely, thus experiencing the community as a extending its freedom rather than limiting it.

Thus, there are quite different approaches to community, and we are inspired by this diversity in our empirical analyses. We look forward to engaging further with these perspectives as we continue with our writing and hope it will contribute with fruitful thinking to the overall RECOVIRA project.


[1] https://ccrs.ku.dk/research/centres-and-projects/covid-19–religion-and-existential-wellbeing/

Researchers of Religion, Digital Media, and Rituals Met in Helsinki

Katriina Hulkkonen, Linda Annunen and Ruth Illman, Åbo Akademi University

An international group of researchers interested in religion, digital media, rituals, and death gathered at the University of Helsinki on 13–15 March 2024. The seminar was jointly organized by the research projects Recovira and Digital Death, DiDe.

The seminar was opened on Wednesday 13 March by a keynote lecture delivered by Professor Douglas Davies of Durham University. His theme was “Death rites online and absent. Death ritual through virtual presence and literal absence: the paradox of live-streaming funerals and the absence of ritual in ‘direct cremation”. Davies’ presentation highlighted a ludic, or playful, attention to death and funerals. Play bends the rules in order to create something new, which becomes apparent especially in two funeral trends: the “no-fuss-funerals”, which are stripped of typical funeral aesthetics and traditions, and funerals carried out as a celebration of life. In this sense, rituals in times of change might bring forth ludicity that in turn allows for changes in funeral rituals.

Prof. Douglas Davies opened the seminar with a keynote lecture on the theme of death rituals in digital age. Prof. Joshua Edelman, PI of the Recovira team, responded with reflections on performativity and play. Image credit – Ruth Illman

The following day was reserved for a roundtable seminar where the researchers of Recovira and DiDe discussed their preliminary results in-depth. In the first roundtable session “Religious communities in digital contexts: Trends and transformations”, Henrik Reintoft Christensen and Alana Vincent talked about the current state of our Recovira project as well as the benefits and challenges of using survey data and social media materials. The presentations sparked discussion on how technology shapes religion and religious communities and how a critical approach could be formed within the Recovira project. In other words, how could our research better consider and critically examine the negative aspects of digitalization and the power structures that relate to it? The participants asked very interesting questions, for example: What is the position of commercial technology companies in the field of religion? What opportunities do religious communities have to respond to or resist increasing digitalization? 

The second roundtable session of the afternoon focused on ritual changes, death, and grief. First, Dorthe Christensen discussed the perspective offered by the autoethnographic method to study digital death practices and grief. Terhi Utriainen then talked about various perspectives for examining death rituals. At the same time, she presented the forthcoming Handbook on Contemporary Death Rituals in Europe. The presentations gave rise to a lively discussion, where for example the definition and use of the concept of ritual was scrutinized. Is there an end to a ritual? Are classics, like the ritual theories of Victor Turner or Catherine Bell, still relevant today? Moreover, what kind of new theoretical tools do we need to study death rituals?

The day continued with an open panel discussion led by Professor Johanna Sumiala, PI of the DiDe team. The speakers were the author, columnist and pastor Hilkka Olkinuora, the funeral home entrepreneur Kyllikki Forsius, the director Hannu Mäkelä from the Digital and Population Data Services Agency, the researcher Maija Butters from the University of Helsinkiand the Vantaa-based Imam Sharmarke Said Aw-Musse.

Death in Finland Today: the public panel discussion at the Think Corner drew a large audience both on-site and online. From left: Johanna Sumiala, Hilkka Olkinuora, Kyllikki Forsius, Hannu Mäkelä, Maija Butters and Sharmarke Said Aw-Musse.

During the conversation, the panelists offered different viewpoints on practices and attitudes toward death. They largely agreed that nowadays, the silent and natural death of an individual is hidden while the violence of death has received a lot of attention in the media, especially due to wars. The discussion highlighted the importance of funeral homes, bureaucracy, and the role of relatives in practical matters related to death. The panelists presented their views on the change in funeral customs in Finland. Based on the discussion, funerals have become more individual. The panelists’ views also resonate with our Finnish Recovira data, according to which in the case of the Lutheran Church, people want to arrange smaller funerals than before. However, the discussion also revealed that funerals are often large in the Muslim community. For example, community members not close to the deceased may also come to pray at the funeral. In addition, the panelists pondered, what kind of a place social media is for dealing with grief, how the fear of death is visible today’s Finland, and whether there should be more education related to death. Based on the discussion, death rituals are still important for communities, relatives and loved ones, as well as for the dying person her- or himself in dealing with death and grief. The panel discussion ended with the wish that people would be present for the dying person and talk more about mortality in general.

On Friday, both projects continued with internal project meetings. For the Recovira-team, this included planning a book that will focus on overlappings and differences expressed in the research data from all project countries. In addition to these more concrete plans for the Recovira project, for us members of the Finnish team, this three-day seminar offered interesting and different topics for reflection concerning, among other things, creativity, critical research on digitalisation and religion, the limits of the use of the concept of ritual, and people’s somewhat changed relationship with death.

Prvi rezultati analiz poglobljenih pogovorov s predstavniki religijskih skupnosti v Sloveniji

Katja K. Ošljak in Aleš Črnič, University of Ljubljana

Slovenski del ekipe trenutno intenzivno analizira intervjuje oziroma jih kodira s pomočjo t. i. kodirnega lista ali kodirne sheme. To je merski inštrument, ki smo ga skupaj zasnovali sodelavke in sodelavci mednarodnega projekta Recovira z namenom, da v prepise oziroma transkripte intervjujev vstopamo s poenotenimi izhodišči za analizo. V vsaki od sodelujočih držav sicer analize opravljamo samostojno, a si tudi s pomočjo skupnih izhodišč za empirično fazo in analizo prizadevamo za medsebojno primerljivost rezultatov.

Analitično kodiranje izjav v intervjujih

Kodirnina shema za analizo poglobljenih intervjujev s predstavniki religijskih skupnosti vsebuje 6 glavnih kod oziroma kategorij, ki odražajo naše temeljne tematske interese. Na drugi ravni pa vsaka od kategorij vsebuje več kod – praviloma okrog deset, s katerimi med poglobljenim branjem označujemo ustrezne dele prepisov. Po potrebi in skladno z odprtostjo ter fleksibilnostjo te kvalitativne tematske analize pa imamo deloma tudi možnost, da v kodirno shemo dodajamo teme, ki jih osnovna kodirna shema ne predvideva, pri čemer pa te raziskovalke in raziskovalci po dogovoru umeščamo na tretji ravni oziroma jih skušamo povezovati s skupnim kodirnim sistemom. Samo delo raziskovalke-analitičarke, ki ga v Sloveniji skrbno in v večji meri samostojno opravlja študentka magistrskega študija na FDV Taja Fortuna, je s preklopi med deduktivnim in induktivnim pogledom v podatke tako še bolj razgibano.

Predstavitev dosedanjih rezultatov

Prof. dr. Aleš Črnič med predstavitvijo rezultatov.

Pred kratkim smo preliminarne ugotovitve in potek dela predstavili projektnim partnerjem in predstavnikom preučevanih religijskih skupin. Ti pa so nam v nadaljevanju konference, ki je potekala prek spleta, podali svoje poglede, pripombe in predloge. Iz Slovenije sta se poleg prof. Aleša Črniča, ki vodi raziskavo pri nas, srečanja udeležila še predstavnika Slovenske škofovske konference in Skupnosti za zavest Krišne.

Povzetek dosedanjih ugotovitev

Preliminarni rezultati, predstavljeni na videokonferenci.

Glede na dosedanje ugotovitve, vse tri religijske skupnosti prepoznavajo prednosti uporabe digitalnih medijev, obenem pa poudarjajo pomen neposrednega osebnega stika z/med verniki. Poleg tega so njihovi pripadniki v intervjujih poročali o povečanem interesu za duhovnost med obdobjem pandemije. Specifično pa predstavniki Skupnosti za zavest Krišne poročajo o povečanju števila vernikov, ki so prisotni na spletu. Islamska skupnost v tem obdobju beleži večje število vernikov različnih nacionalnosti, kar je deloma posledica migracij v Slovenijo. Rimskokatoliška cerkev, ki je ob pandemiji zaznala prepolovitev udeležbe vernikov pri obredih (Poročilo Slovenske škofovske konference iz leta 2020), se trudi privabiti vernike nazaj v cerkve in se pri tem poslužuje tudi digitalnih medijev.

Prva slovenska študija primera se osredotoča na Rimskokatoliško cerkev, največjo religijsko skupnost v Sloveniji. V času pandemije se je Rimskokatoliška skupnost hitro prilagodila novim razmeram. Na različnih spletnih platformah, kot so župnijska spletna mesta, Facebook in drugi družbeni mediji, so izvajali prenose maš iz določenih župnij. Pri tem so lahko uporabljali tudi napredne pristope in profesionalno opremo. Poleg tega se je okrepilo oblikovanje t. i. novih digitalnih avtoritet ali vplivnežev, ki so prek interneta še bolj intenzivno komunicirali s svojim občinstvom in širšo javnostjo.

Islamska skupnost v Sloveniji je manjšinska, vendar družbeno uveljavljena religijska skupnost. Večino članov sestavljajo priseljenci iz Bosne in Hercegovine, ki so šele leta 2020 pridobili prvo džamijo v Sloveniji, a žal tik pred zaprtjem javnega življenja zaradi pandemije. Komunikacija Slovenske islamske skupnosti na spletu je izredno formalna in zadržana, kar morda namiguje na namero, da se prepreči morebitno razmnoževanje in širjenje obstoječih predsodkov proti skupnosti. Hkrati odgovori članov skupnosti v intervjujih razkrivajo neko distanco do uporabe digitalnih medijev v povezavi z religijskim življenjem.

Tretja študija primera zajema pri nas mlajšo religijsko manjšino Združenje za zavest Krišne (Hare Krišna), ki se je izkazala za najbolj digitalizirano med tremi obravnavanimi religijskimi skupnostmi. Eden od razlogov za to bi lahko bilo dejstvo, da gre za novo religijsko gibanje, ki je značilno organizirano “od spodaj navzgor”. Uporaba novih orodij in digitalnih medijev jim je omogočila širjenje skupnostnih vsebin, obredov in drugih dogodkov tudi v obdobju po pandemiji, s čimer so dosegli več pripadnikov tudi iz bolj oddaljenih lokacij.

Diving into the data and sensing the importance of senses

Anne Lundahl Mauritsen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aarhus University

As the RECOVIRA project proceeds, we are still in the process of analyzing the data in both Denmark and in the other participating countries. In our former Danish blogpost, we emphasized to clear trends in the data: First, that all the Danish religious communities we have visited have returned to meeting physically and second, that resources are highly conditional for how the groups adapt digitally. As we plan the articles we will write this spring, out interest in understanding the community aspect has only increased. What is it about community which is so hard to replicate online and which makes people go back to meeting face to face rather than digitally? To near an answer to this question, we will present just a few quotes from informants in the study. Interestingly, both informants in their quotes mention the importance of the senses:

 “I mean, the many, many smells are an important element. I have – on a regular Sunday – counted the many, between 8-12 nationalities at a regular Sunday service (…) The sensual, the sensual means something, I mean in my lecture this Sunday I will touch upon Grundtvig’s thesis of how we’re human first and then Christians, there is something about how being human opens for the sensual which then becomes an opening towards the divine”

“Well, if I should tie this up, then I would say that what is essential to me is the community where we look each other in the eyes and sense each other, it has been the smells, it can be different things, and that can never be replaced by digital, by a digital presence”

Clearly, to both informants the senses which come into play in the presence of other community members are an important part of feeling connected and clearly this is lacking in a digital service. It seems as if smelling each other and gaining eye contact are key factors in feeling part of the group, which could potentially have interesting explanations founded in theories from the fields of psychology and evolutionary biology as well as aesthetic studies. There is much more to unpack in terms of what constitutes community, but we have a strong feeling of this being an important starting point, which we will pursue over the next few months of analysis.

Jewish burials: open air and on-line

Lena Roos, Professor, Study of Religions, Södertörn University

Restrictions during the pandemic meant a return to more traditional burial practices, as well as radical changes for Jews in Sweden.

The Jewish communities in Sweden were severely affected early on in the pandemic due to the fact that the first wave of covid infections coincided with the holiday Purim, when family members from various generations get together to celebrate. The virus also made it into the Jewish senior residence in Stockholm, resulting in a number of fatalities. This probably accelerated the decision-making process in the Jewish communities in Sweden, in comparison with many other religious communities, and as of March 19th, 2020, the Great Synagogue in Stockholm closed for IRL services and started sending zoom services for Friday kabbalat shabbat as well as a weekday morning service.[1]

Due to the number of early casualties, the Jewish burial societies were forced to speed up the process of burial, so that in many cases the burial took place the same day that the person had died, or at least the following. This is essentially a return to a more traditional Jewish practice, where speedy burials are the ideal, even if this is seen as a rare thing in Swedish society, where Christian burials are often postponed for several weeks until the family members can agree on a suitable date. On the other hand, the speedy burials during the pandemic meant overcoming a previous resistance to use of digital media. In the past, there had been a reluctance to even allowing photos to be taken during the burial. Now there was a clash between two principles that were both perceived as important: on the one hand the practice of the speedy burial, on the other hand, the commandment to attend funerals. It is considered a mitzvah, a meritorious deed, to attend burials, especially for friends and family, but also for others. During the pandemic, however, due to restrictions on travel, often not even the closest relatives could attend IRL. Was it then reasonable to prevent relatives from attending the funeral through livestream? Before long, this had become an accepted part of Jewish burials, enabling friends and family who were sheltered in their homes, or maybe lived in Israel, to attend the funerals. And so it has remained after the pandemic.

Another clash was between Jewish traditional practice and the restrictions for religious gatherings imposed by the Swedish government, a maximum of eight participants during the height of the pandemic. Many Jewish prayers, such as the kaddish, the prayer for the departed, requires a minyan, a group of ten adult (traditionally, male) Jews. This was however solved by transferring the funeral service outside. A new tradition developed where only the closest family was allowed into the funeral chapel to say their goodbye to the deceased. The rest of the mourners waited outside where the traditional ceremony then took place, and where the participants could keep a safe distance, and where the restrictions of merely eight participants did not apply.

[1] Baran, Rachel. 2020. När fysiska religiösa rum stängs och digitala mötesplatser öppnas. En kvalitativ studie av judiskt församlingsliv under coronapandemin våren 2020. Stockholms universitet.

Image credit: By Lars (Lon) Olsson – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91627296


Ethnographie und Persönlichkeitsentwicklung

Henry Cremer, Student Assistant, Goethe University Frankfurt

Im Rahmen meiner Arbeit als studentische Hilfskraft am deutschen Teilprojekt konnte ich wiederholt an Feldbesuchen teilnehmen und diese auch eigenständig durchführen. Die dabei gesammelten Erkenntnisse sind äußerst vielfältig und erschöpfen sich nicht im Forschungsschwerpunkt des Projekts.

Dementsprechend steht der Aspekt, welchen ich in diesem Text behandeln möchte, nicht mit dem Forschungsthema im Zusammenhang, sondern ich möchte vielmehr über mich als forschende Person schreiben. Denn durch die Methode der teilnehmenden Beobachtung nimmt der*die Forschende nicht nur eine neue Perspektive gegenüber seinem*ihrem sozialen Umfeld ein, sondern auch auf sich selbst.

Ethnographien laden dazu ein, sich selbst und damit auch die eigene soziale Praxis in einem anderen Licht zu sehen. Als forschende Person bin ich bemüht, meine sozialen Praktiken zu reflektieren und Interaktionen, in welche ich mich im Rahmen des Projekts begebe, zu durchdringen. Dadurch habe ich die Möglichkeit, mit den Routinen meines alltäglichen Handelns zu brechen und neige mehr dazu, mich wesentlich bewusster in sozialen Situationen zu verhalten.

In meiner Position als Ethnograph kann dadurch ein Stück weit die soziale Welt um mich herum entzaubern und ein tieferes Verständnis von den latenten Mechanismen und Strukturen alltäglicher Interaktion bekommen. Hierbei steht die Selbsterkenntnis über die eigenen sozialen Zwänge für mich stets im Vordergrund. Ich bin überzeugt, dass das Erkennen sozialer Strukturen einen Beitrag dazu leistet, diese nicht zwangsläufig zu reproduzieren. Erkenntnis ist dabei ein erster Schritt, von dem sich eine bewusstere und damit mündigere soziale Praxis ableiten lässt.

Ursprünglich banal wirkende Alltagspraxis wird dadurch gewiss herausfordernd, die Forschenden sind ständigen Irritationen ausgesetzt, da sie sich vor jeder Handlung bewusst entscheiden müssen, wie sie sich verhalten wollen und welchen Eindruck sie damit auf ihr Gegenüber vermitteln. Sich dieser Anstrengung zu stellen, erscheint mir für meine Identitätsentwicklung jedoch als etwas Positives. Die Möglichkeit, gewöhnliche Handlungsautomatismen abzurufen, wird eingeschränkt und so bekommt der*die Ethnograph*in ein bewussteres Verständnis von seiner*ihrer Praxis und damit auch von sich selbst.

Die Irritationen können zunächst hinderlich erscheinen, jedoch glaube ich, dass der Versuch der Überwindung, durch die Aufarbeitung dieser, etwa in einem Selbstdiskurs, nicht nur zu besseren Forschungserkenntnissen führen kann, sondern darüber hinaus an Bedeutung für das eigene Selbstverständnis als forschende Person gewinnt. Hierbei ist wichtig, dass es mir nicht um ein tatsächliches Überwinden der besagten Anstrengung geht, sondern vielmehr um ein Hinterfragen dieser. Also: kritische Selbstreflexion um ihrer selbst willen, denn nur daraus kann ein tieferes Verständnis von sozialer Realität resultieren.

Dieses Verständnis sollte im besten Falle nicht theoretischer Natur bleiben, sondern sollte aus den Erfahrungen im Feld direkt auf die Handlungsebene übertragen werden können.

Ich habe während und vor allem nach der Durchführung der einzelnen Ethnographien erst gemerkt, wie selbstverständlich ich als sozialer Akteur bestimmte Handlungen und Gewohnheiten durchführe bzw. befolge. Die Reflexion des Erlebten während des Schreibens meiner Protokolle hat mir dabei besonders geholfen, so habe ich den Eindruck, dass ich durch die intensive Auseinandersetzung mit mir innerhalb der Beobachtungen ein ganz neues Bewusstsein von meiner eigenen sozialen Praxis gewonnen habe.

Beispielsweise habe ich bei den Feldbesuchen in einer christlichen Gemeinde ganz bewusst bestimmte Abläufe und Praktiken erkennen können, aber dadurch gleichzeitig dem Verlauf des Gottesdienstes wesentlich schlechter aktiv folgen können. Also in dem jeweiligen Ritual vorgesehenen Moment aufzustehen oder mit dem Singen zu beginnen, obwohl ich christlich sozialisiert wurde und dementsprechend schon an unzähligen Gottesdiensten teilgenommen habe. Der Versuch der bewussten Teilnahme führt bei mir dazu, dass ich die über Jahre eingeübte Praxis, welche mir zum Automatismus geworden ist, nicht mehr mühelos abrufen konnte, dafür konnte ich aber erheblich bewusster dem Geschehen folgen.

Abschließend möchte ich festhalten, dass die Selbstbetrachtung innerhalb einer teilnehmenden Beobachtung dazu führt, das eigene Handeln als Ethnograph*in stärker zu reflektieren, wodurch die Forschenden in eine andere Beziehung zu ihrer Umwelt treten. Meiner Meinung nach können Ethnographien einen Ausgangspunkt für ein mündiges Teilnehmen am sozialen Leben bilden und somit zu einem Teil von einer emanzipatorischen Identitätsbildung werden, welche ich mir durch und während meines Studiums erhoffe.

Image credit: Photo by Max Rahubovskiy from Pexels

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