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A culture as a sociological construct is a complex phenomenon. It takes time and conscious effort to be able to understand a particular culture. It is even more difficult if one wants willfully to assimilate some elements of that culture into his native one.
As a complex reality, culture consists of many elements. Some of these elements are essential to the very nature of that culture and without them such a culture would not have taken the shape it has now.
In the context of African studies, the researcher believes that the notion of taboos has been an essential element of African religion and culture. He reckons that taboos do not only constitute a part of African cultural heritage but also provide a good explanation of that heritage.
The researcher decided to focus on taboo in African culture from a general point of view. He believes that taboos are an essential concept in African culture and that to understand them will enable him to infer better its psychological, religious and social consequences.
The purpose of this work is to explore a concept of taboos in Africa. It will be done by defining taboos, providing examples and the way they can be categorized. A special attention will be given to the the role of taboo in maintaining social structures of African society.
This research is an ethnographic investigation that is interested not so much about studying people but rather in learning from people. Such an investigation takes place in order to understand the way people process their experiences (Spradley, 1979, p. 3) or “to get inside their heads”(Spradley, 1980, p. 10).
The researcher chose a qualitative approach in designing the survey. Due to the very nature of this particular research with its topic, a non-probability approach to sampling was taken. Within that approach, a purposive/judgmental way of sampling was decided upon. Russell (1994, p. 95) says that: “In judgment sampling, you decide the purpose you want an informant (or a community) to serve and you go out to find one… Purposive samples emerge from your experience in ethnographic research. You learn in the field, as you go along, to select the units of analysis…that will provide the information you need”.
Methods of collecting data
Once the researcher has decided upon his topic, he created a questionnaire containing open-ended questions. This questionnaire was used by him during interviews with the participants of his research. The questions were formulated in a way that their meaning was supposed to be easy to understand to the respondents in order to avoid ambiguity (Russell, 1994, p.268-269). The questionnaire was a starting point of a semi-structured interview taking place with participants concerning various aspects related to taboos as well as other cultural practices as suggested by Prof Katola and personal interest of the researcher and his field assistant.
During each interview, notes were taken by the researcher and his field assistant. In all cases, the permission was asked and given by the respondents to do it.
Methods of interpreting data
Taking into account the nature of ethnographic research, a qualitative way of collecting data and the intended method of presentation of finding, the researcher chose content analysis methods to interpret data. When applying that method, “the task of the researcher is to come up with a set of categories and then to proceed to count the number of instances that fall into each of those categories. What is important is the fact that those categories must be sufficiently precise to enable other researchers to arrive at the same results when examining the text” (Dominik, 2007, p. 53).
The researcher focused on interviewing people from...
Bibliography: Ahn, J,B-K. (2003). “Sexual taboos and morality among the Agikuyu people of Kenya”. In Katola, M (Ed). MIASMU Research Integration Papers to Moral Teaching and Practices of African Religion. Jan-Apr semester.
Andemariam, M. (2001). “Place of taboos in Gikuyu morality”. In Magesa, L. (Ed). MIASMU Research Integration Papers to Moral Teaching and Practices of African Religion. August session.
Ayisi, O.E. (1972). African culture. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers.
Dominik, W. (2007). What is Christian counselling within spiritual/religious paradigm, unpublished MA thesis, Manchester University.
Durkheim, E. (1963). Incest: The nature and the origin of the taboo. New York: Lyle Stuart.
Fisher, R.B. (1997). West African Religious Traditions. New York: Maryknoll.
Holden, L. (2000). Encyclopedia of Taboos. Oxford: ABC CLIO Ltd.
Parrinder, G. (1969). Religion in Africa. New York: Praeger Publishers.
Scanlan, R. (2003). “The concept of taboos in African society with reference to the Kikuyu of Kenya”. In Getui, M (Ed). MIASMU Research Integration Papers to African Culture: An overview. Jan-Apr semester.
Spradley, P.J. (1979). Ethnographic interview. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Spradley, P.J. (1980). Participant Observation. Fort Worth: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Steiner, F. (1956). Taboo. London: Cohen &West Ltd.
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