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Review material you already have gained about products obtained through agriculture, gathering, hunting, fishing, crafts, etc.

How do goods from another area arrive in your village or town–by truck, by plane, by bicycle, etc.? How are goods and produce from your area transported to market? Is this done by the producer or by a middleman?

Which of these are sold or traded to other villagers or neighborhood residents? Which and what amounts are sold or traded outside the area? To those of the same ethnic group or to those of a different group? Are the products sold directly to consumers or sold to middlemen?

Which items come from other villagers and which from outsiders? Do traders bring wares to the neighborhood, or do people make their purchases in town?

Chart out the economic relationships existing between your village or town and:

(1)    traders – who are they and what do they buy or sell?

(2)    other villages and towns in the area – does another town have goods that are not available in yours? How far does one have to travel to the next town or city?

(3)    a major city – is transport readily available? Is the trip a hassle or a fun occasion? Is it for the purpose of selling or buying? Is the trip usually successful?

(4)    international export – are products manufactured or grown in your area sold internationally? Are products from another country readily available where you live? Are such products desired by the local people?

What range of prices would various types of items be sold for? What has been the rate of inflation over the past two years? Have wages kept up with the cost of living?

How are business transactions conducted? Is there a sex differentiation in terms of commerce or services rendered?

Are items sold or bought for cash or credit? Who are the moneylenders? What are the terms of such a loan (time, interest rate, guarantee, etc.)? Are there pawn shops? What is the rate of indebtedness in the village? What happens when debts are not or cannot be repaid?

From whom can one borrow tools or articles? Is an item returned to the owner or must he go for it when he needs it?

Do people hire themselves out for wages? In the village? Outside the village? Is there a steady migration of people from rural areas into town seeking work? From what areas or ethnic groups do they come? What kind of work, if any, can they obtain?

Are outsiders hired by villagers? To which ethnic groups do they belong, what work do they do, and what are they paid?


What is the parental attitude toward schooling for children? How much education should boys/girls have?

To which grade can a child study in the local setting? In order to study further, would the child have to be sent elsewhere? To a boarding school? or to stay with relatives while studying? What value is placed on education by the family? by the community? by the tribe? Does the amount of education received affect the type of employment available? The choice of a marriage partner?

What is considered the minimum education required for an office job? for maintenance work? for a physician? etc.? Would any of these require specialized education and is this readily available? Is there discrimination in admission procedures? In what way?

How is the completion of an educational course acknowledged? Is there a graduation ceremony sponsored by the institution? What does the family or community do to celebrate? Are gifts given and received? By whom and to whom?

What are the expectations of the community, the nation, the family, from a graduate?


Are there local midwives? Are they trained? If not, how do they get their knowledge? Are they contracted beforehand to be on hand for the delivery? How much do they get paid for a successful delivery? for an unsuccessful one? How long after the delivery do they care for the mother? What are their services? What must the mother do after childbirth?

Where and how is the baby delivered? Who may be present? Who is in charge of the event? Who cuts the cord? How? What is done with the afterbirth? What must be done for the child physically and ritually? Who does this?

What is the father’s role before, during, and after the birth? At what point does he see the baby? Who announces the birth to the rest of the family? to the community? How is this done?

What is the meaning attached to events occurring at the birth of a child (guests present, cord around the baby’s neck, etc.)? What is done in the case of twins? What practices and beliefs are associated with death in childbirth?

Is the birth of a child, whether boy or girl, a time of rejoicing? Are gifts given in either case? To whom?

What religious or folk customs are observed at birth, as baptisms, charms, circumcision, etc.?


Do people own their homes? or are they renters? What is their responsibility to the owner? and the owner’s responsibility to them? How is the rent paid (by a portion of the crop harvested, or by a monetary payment)? Where is the residence located in relation to the fields?

What crops are planted? Draw up a calendar showing the events in the yearly agricultural cycle, noting time of field preparation, planting, weeding, and harvest for the various crops. How are crops stored? Which are grown for family consumption? which for cash crops?

Observe, participate (as possible) in and record how field work is done, tools used, labor patterns, etc. Take pictures if appropriate.

What kind of buildings are constructed in the fields? Do members of the family stay in their fields for part of the year? Who stays and for how long and why? How often are crops planted on the same piece of ground? Is there a rotation of crops? How do people decide where they will make their fields? How are boundary lines marked?

How valuable is land ownership? Is land passed from one generation to another? How can more land be acquired? Who holds the records of land ownership for the area? Who holds the title to land, and what do the title “papers” look like? How are infringements challenged and decided?

Can land be rented or leased? What portion of any produce must be given to the owner? Can land be purchased? Can the purchaser obtain a clear and permanent deed?


Why do people hunt? What proportion of the food supply is obtained through hunting? How is the meat or bones divided? What is done with the hide?

What weapons and what methods (e.g., tracking, lying in ambush) are used in hunting? Are baits or decoys used? Traps? Is hunting an individual or group activity? Who participates in the hunt? Are there any restrictions (e.g., abstinence from sex or certain foods) on individuals before a hunt? Is there a particular territory within which a person or village may hunt?

Which animals are hunted? Is hunting a regular or intermittent activity? Is any type of game conservation practiced? Is this locally monitored or regulated by an outside agency?

Which birds are considered edible? How are they hunted? Are the eggs of any birds collected and eaten?

Do some make their livelihood by fishing? Are fish caught for home consumption alone or are some sold or bartered?

Describe all methods of fishing and sketch or photograph nets, traps, and other fishing equipment. Is fishing done from a boat or from the shoreline? What bait is used?

Is fishing done by both men and women? Are some methods used more by one than the other?

If possible, go fishing with some of your new friends. Have someone tell you about their fishing experience. Do they tell tall tales about the “one that got away?”


Dictionary definition: Arts and Crafts: the creative design of everyday objects

What creative objects and decorations have you observed? How are they used? What value do they seem to have (are they in a place of honor? worn on special occasions)? Who makes them? Are they made at certain times of the year? Are certain crafts associated with ritual practices? Are any crafts gender specific? Do any crafters cross the gender expectation and what do local people think of these people.

What decorative (as opposed to utilitarian) features are used in crafts to make them more attractive? What standards of beauty are there and how does this affect the value of the article? What artistic expressions are found? Are there patterns which are followed or is there room for free expression? Do these appear in special objects or at special occasions (e.g. house decoration, pottery, carving)?

Are the materials for these crafts available locally? If not, how are they obtained?

How are children taught various crafts? At what ages?

Is the activity necessary in order to have the item? or can the item be bought commercially as well? Are formerly hand-made items no longer made because of their availability commercially? What motivates a person to make an item by hand? Which items are more valued– those made commercially, or those made by hand?

Which crafts bring in supplementary income? Is the income pooled with other family funds or does it remain personal property?


What things have you observed around the house and neighborhood that help the residents accomplish tasks? Find out what they are called and what they are used for (e.g., field or garden work, food preparation, weaving, hunting, home maintenance, car repairs)? Note especially tools which are new to you.

Who uses what tools when? Are there role expectations or restrictions on which sex uses which tools?

Try to use some which are appropriate to your sex and role. Are they easy to use? Mimic the instructions people give you while you are using the tools.

Are the tools bought commercially or home-made? Are some of them used for a quick job and thrown away? or are some of them permanent items? When they break, who fixes them?

Are there specialists available for certain jobs? What jobs do they do? Where are they located? How are they repaid for their labor? How is the price negotiated and by whom?

Do they only work in their store or shop, or will they come to the home to do work that is needed? How are they contracted? Who does the negotiations? What else needs to be negotiated besides the price?

Is there a period of time in the day when work is not usually done, as a “rest” time? What is the expectation of the local people? How graciously do they respond to an interruption? Would the request be acted on at that time, or put off to after the “rest period?”


Make copies of a chart with times of the day (morning, noon, afternoon, evening, night) with space for writing in activities done during those times. Fill in your own activities for each time frame and give one to some of your friends. Have your friends fill in their own chart with their activities. Compare charts as a conversation exercise. What adjustments would be allowed in the daily routine? Do these tasks get done each day, or is there variety during the week?

Which activities are personal, and which ones involve the whole family? How are bathroom schedules organized and monitored? Are there washstands outside of the toilet area, or is everything enclosed in one room? How often is bathing done, and where?

Have each of the members of one family you know well fill out the charts. Compare the schedules for each and note how they differ, how they augment each other, and how adjustments are made. Note how much of their time is taken in doing their various tasks. What problems do they face during the day and how do they deal with them? Which tasks are done on a daily basis? Does the work vary from day to day (some tasks done one day, some on another)?

Arrange with a family you know well to stay overnight in their home and participate in their life for a whole day. Perhaps you could suggest that you would like to tell your relatives in your home country what a day in the life of a local family is like. Participate in their work as much as possible and try to get a picture of both individual differences and interpersonal relationships. If you have a fellow-worker, split up to follow family members to different tasks. Compare notes later to get a composite picture.

Examples of questions to note:

  •  Who gets up first?
  • What is the first task each member of the family performs?
  • Who wakes up the rest of the family? in what order?
  • Is face-washing enough, or is a complete bath in order in the morning?
  • Who gets the clothes ready for wearing?
  • Who cooks the breakfast?
  • Do the children get walked to school?
  • When does the father leave for work, and when does he return?
  • Does the mother also work? If so, what are the arrangements for child care?
  • What arrangements are made for cleaning the house, washing the dishes, gardening, marketing, etc.?


Are nuclear families (husband, wife, and their children) the norm, or do people live in extended families, including multiple generations?

What does each member contribute to family life? What degree of cooperation is there between members of the family?

What evidence do you see of sibling rivalry? How is this dealt with? Do boys get away with more than girls, or is it the opposite? How and what kind of discipline is administered? Is it the same for all, or is it given according to the behavior?

Watch the interactions between members of the family. How is respect shown? When tempers flare, is it justified? Are there overt demonstrations of love?

In and around the home, what is the division of labor gender specific? according to age? according to relationship? Try to assess how much work is done by each member. Note the amount of cooperation there is in performing certain tasks. What jobs are done daily? seasonally? whenever there is a demand?

Do any of the households have servants? How are they cared for? Are they paid a wage? What is their status? Are there any jobs that some servants would not do because they would feel it was below their status to do them? What hierarchy is there between servants?

Does the family do things together during leisure times, like play games, tell stories, watch TV, or do crafts, etc.? What other things are done in the home by individual members, like handwork, woodworking, computer, or reading?

Do members of the family go to children’s sports or cultural events?


Living areas

How are the rooms arranged? around a courtyard? in a linear fashion?

How many rooms are there in this house? Are they interconnected? Does one key give you access, or does each room need a key?

How many people live in the house? are they a single family unit, or an extended family?

What kind of furniture is in the room in which you are seated? Note floor covering, curtains, and other decoration on the floor, walls, or ceiling. Is there anything that surprises you?

What other rooms are in your host’s home? Are there rooms that are off-limits to a visitor? If you can see into other rooms, what other furniture is there? Does the furniture tell you what the room is used for? Do rooms seem to be multi-purpose or have a specific use?

Do the furnishings in the house give you a clue as to the economic status of the occupants?

Where do the children play? indoors? outdoors? Is this a secure area?

Working areas

Where is the kitchen located? What kind of stove is used for cooking? What kind of fuel is used for cooking? Where and how is this available?

Where are the dishes, utensils, pots and pans stored? Where are supplies like flour, sugar, onions, etc. stored?

Where do the dishes get washed? What is used to scour pans? Are spotless pans a thing of pride? Are the dishes drip-dried or dried with a towel?

What do you think their standard of cleanliness is in comparison with yours?

Where is cleaning equipment kept, like brooms, sweepers, etc. What kind of equipment is used for cleaning? Does the type of building determine this?

Is there electricity? For how many hours a day? Hot and cold running water? Otherwise, how is water heated? Is this done only when needed, at certain times of the day?

Where is the laundry done? Are bigger pieces (sheets, etc.) sent out to be washed? Is the laundry at home done by hand or by machine? What kind of soap is used? Where are clothes hung out to dry?

Is there a special area for chopping wood? for preparing vegetables or meat for cooking? for keeping seedlings for planting in the garden? for keeping animals?

When you return home:

Draw a diagram of the house with any special observations about the various rooms and use of space. Add to this as you visit more homes.

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