A Cultural-Social-Religious Profile of a Target People
A Development Process and Instrument
This instrument is designed to be used during ethnographic interviews
among the target population as one gathers information in order to construct
a people profile and worldview of the culture. Adaptation of this instrument
for use in various settings is recommended. Answers to the questions, should,
if at all possible, be secured on-site, within the culture being studied.
It is best that the research or survey be accomplished among those people
who live in the ethnographic center of the culture. Avoid surveying only
fringe people, or people who are no longer living within the boundaries
of the culture being studied. Individuals being interviewed should be like
the majority of the people within the culture.
1. Family Structure
1.1. Is the family monogamous or polygamous? Describe the characteristics and conditions.
1.2. Is the family matriarchal or patriarchal? Describe the "head of the household."
1.3. What are the authority lines in the family? Who makes decisions--how, when and why?
1.4. What are the expectations and rules for getting permission?
1.5. What are the expectations and rules for getting forgiveness?
1.6. What are the roles and consequent relationships between family members? Include husband, wife, children, relatives. What is the difference at different levels in the society and for the different ages? Who is responsible for whom, when and how?
1.7. Identify kinship lines and patterns of the extended family.
1.8. How do families support themselves in this culture? What are the traditional and non-traditional means of support?
1.9 How does the family structure change as a result of death, marriage, separation, incapacity, incompetence or other significant changes?
1.10. How is the family’s heritage passed from one generation to the next?
1.11. Do families have totems? What are the typical ones and how are they used?
1.12. How is authentic news passed on within the family?
1.13. What are rules of inheritance?
1.14 . What are the sexual and mating roles in the family? What are the marriage rites and rules?
1.15. How are grievances settled within a family? What are the rules concerning mistreatment, separation, divorce or a mistress?
1.16. What are the child-rearing practices and traditions?
1.17. How do children choose their life vocation, their role in the community?
1.18. What are the special days or events for families?
1.19. How is the family changing?
1.20. How does an individual defend himself or herself within
2. Social Structure
2.1 How is the society of a community organized? What are the typical, the common homogeneous and heterogeneous facets of society?
2.2 How do different families relate to each other? How do families meet other families in the community? What are the rules of meeting and making friends?
2.3. How is one’s place a village society or a community determined? Is there a caste system or other type of structure within the culture?
2.4. How does society relate to foreigners? Foreigners from another city, another race, another tribe, another country? What are the attitude and rules of relating?
2.5. How is real estate handled? What are the rules of ownership, selling and buying?
2.6. How does an individual become an adult? Are there rules of recognition and rites of passage? At what ages do they occur? What are the circumstances of their occurrence?
2.7. What rights do individuals have within a community, within society? What rights do families, clans have? What rights do males, females have?
2.8. How are leaders chosen? Who is eligible? When are they eligible?
2.8.1. Under what conditions and by what rules are they chosen?
2.8.2. How are leaders recognized by society, by the community?
2.8.3. How are leaders changed or replaced?
2.8.4. What are the rights and responsibilities of leaders?
2.8.5. How do leaders lose the right to lead?
2.8.6. How do individuals relate to their leaders?
2.8.7. How do leaders relate to other leaders in the culture?
2.9. What are the basic values within society that gives it cohesion and security?
2.10. What are the taboos within society?
2.11. What are the common traditions within society?
2.12. What are the valued arts or art forms within society?
2.13. What are the learning preferences of the people? Are most of the people oral communicators or are they mostly literate communicators?
2.14. How is communication carried out? With whom? What are the rules?
2.15. What are the channels for news? Who can bear news? How? When and how is news recognized as official and authentic? Is there a certain place, time or art form whereby truth or authentic and authoritative news is given to the community?
2.16. How are individuals "educated" concerning rules within the community, society and culture?
2.17. How are individuals educated? Is there a formal educational system such as schools? Is it for everyone? Is it pervasive? Is it effective?
2.18. Describe the vocational respect ladder within society? What are the levels?
2.19. Describe how the society looks upon marriage. What are the rules in society concerning courtship, engagement, marriage and divorce?
2.20. What are the rules of dress within society?
2.21. Describe law and order within society. Structure? Processes?
2.22. Describe medical care within the society? Type? Structure?
3. Religious Structure
3.1. Describe the predominant religious system or systems in society?
3.2. Does the religion express belief in a god or gods? Name & describe them. If they have a pluralistic belief in gods, what are the relationships between the gods?
3.3. Chart and describe the people's spirit world (beings, places and status).
3.4. Where does the power and authority reside in the religion(s)? What is the source of the authority and the power?
3.5. Do the people believe in miracles and magic? Are they superstitious?
3.6. What part do deceased ancestors play in the religion? Is there interaction between the living and the dead?
3.7. What are the primary documents of the religion?
3.8. What are the common religious rites and events?
3.9. What is their view about the Godhead and the position of God?
3.10. What are the characteristics of God/the god within their religion?
3.11. What are the basic beliefs? About God? About good and evil? About life? About the source of life and creation? About death? About mankind? About spirits? About wrong, sin and guilt? About eternity? About salvation? About life after death? About sickness? About securing converts or adherents? About deviates from the religion? About women?
3.12. How does an individual relate to the religion? Is personal choice respected?
3.13. How does religion involve society? How does it relate to society? How does society relate to religion? What position does religion have within society?
3.14. How does religion involve family?
3.15. How does religion view foreigners?
3.16. How does religion view other religions?
3.17. Who are the religious leaders? How are they chosen? Under what conditions and by what rules? How are religious leaders recognized and sanctioned?
3.18. Does the religion formally recommend and do the believers use charms or amulets and enter into magical rites?
3.19. What is the relationship between the seen world and the unseen world?
3.20. Is/are the religion(s) animistic or mixed with animism?
4. Economic Structure
4.1. Is society’s economic structure agrarian, industrial or mixed?
4.2. What are the primary drivers of the economy? Capitalism, socialism or others? Describe the economy.
4.3. What are the primary economic and vocational categories and divisions in the society?
4.4. What are the structural patterns within society?
4.5. How are prices determined? What are the major influences on prices?
4.6. Who is in control of the flow of money?
4.7. Who is in control of the financial institutions? Are their private financial processes as strong or influential as the public institutions?
4.8. Describe the traditional classes in the economy.
4.9. Is a barter culture in existence? Does it predominate? Is it significant?
4.10. How does the economy relate to other countries?
4.11. How is social security provided? Within family, social or governmental
5. National Political Structure.
5.1. How does the national political structure differ from the local
structure? This category varies so much in approach and sensitivity, that
it is best for this to be constructed locally.
SOURCES: This list has been adapted from a number anthropological and sociological instruments. The more influential ones were: John Apeh's Social Structure and Church Planting: A Study of the Cultural Concerns of the Receptors of the Gospel; James P. Spradely's The Ethnographic Interview; SIL's "World View Workshop Format" document; and various other anthropological and sociological documents.
Prepared By Dr. Jim Slack