Introduction. Fieldwork in Religion: Bodily Experience and Ethnographic Knowledge

  • Emily Pierini University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Alberto Groisman Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina
Keywords: ethnographic knowledge, fieldwork, embodied knowledge, religious experience, ethnographic participation, body, personhood, self, belief, knowing


This Introduction presents the main arguments debated in this Special Issue upon the construction of ethnographic knowledge in researching among participants of religious and spiritual groups through the lenses of bodily experience, addressing the empirical, ethical, epistemological, relational, political and analytical implications of this significant aspect of fieldwork. We ask specifically how does the ethnographer's experience of researching among these groups inform the production of ethnographic knowledge? In which way does it redefine our analytical categories, and the way we approach the experiences of participants in these groups? Up to which extent do our interlocutors expects us to know about their experiences and practices? When it comes to religious and spiritual experience these questions seem to enter an insidious territory challenging established categories, such as ‘knowledge’ and ‘belief’, ‘body’, ‘self’ and ‘personhood’, ‘health’ and ‘illness’; categories which we argue that should arise from the felt immediacy of the field. Eventually we address ethnography as a dispositive that throughout the research process not only involves the ‘intellectual’ activity of the scholar, but also the researcher as person and agent whose theoretical task should also include the empirical research on his/her experience of knowing and becoming in the field, considering the flow of relationships established with those ‘others’ in many ways who participate in the ‘project of knowing’ and constitute the raison d'être of ethnographic research.


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