Dr. Zahir's Ethnographical Questionnaire

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Dr. Zahir’s Ethnographical Questionnaire was compiled by David Zahir to help in the description of concultures, and can be found in the files section of the Conculture group at Yahoo.

To make it easier (and encourage) to fill it out I — BPJ — have created a template formatting the questions as wiki headings. To use template create a page named e.g. Your conculture Ethnographical Questionnaire and enter the text

 {{subst:Ethnographical Questionnaire|Your conculture}}

into the edit box — most easily done by copy-pasting the test in the box above, replacing the words Your conculture with the actual name of your conculture —, then save the page and then open the edit window again. Now the edit box questions will contain the list of questions formatted as wiki headings, with vertical space between for you to fill in your answers. (I put this page here for three reasons: (a) to show it as David Zahir originally wrote it, (b) to provide an easy way to read through the questions, and (c) to advertice and describe the use of the template version.)

Don't copy-paste the contents of this page into your own page; the formatting won't be as nice, and you'll have to do a lot of editing to make it look nice, and don't under any circumstances enter your answers into the template editing page, since that will ruin the template for others!

I. Questions of Place

(a) Describe the geography of where your society calls home.
(b) Describe the climate your society deals with. How severe are their seasons?
(c) What kinds of natural disasters has this society gotten used to?
(d) What are the most commonly-grown foods?
(e) What are the most commonly-eaten meats?
(f) What foods are considered exotic or expensive?
(g) What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?
(h) Is there usually enough food and water for the population?
(i) What is this place's most abundant resource?
(j) What is its most valuable resource?
(k) What resource is it most lacking?
(l) How do people travel from one place to another?
(m) Are the borders secure? In what way?
(n) How many people live here?
(o) Where in this place to they congregate?
(p) What part of this place do they avoid? Why?
(q) What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?
(r) What are the most common wild animals?
(s) Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won't be?

II. Questions of Time

(a) How far back does this society's written history go?
(b) How far back do its people believe it goes?
(c) What is the worst disaster they believe they've faced?
(d) What was the best thing that every happened to them?
(e) What in their past makes them feel ashamed?
(f) What in their past makes them proud?
(g) What are they afraid of happening again?
(h) What are they hoping will happen? Do they think it likely?
(i) What do they assume the future will hold?
(j) How has this society changed? Do its current members realize this?
(k) What are the most popular stories about the past?
(l) Who in the past is the greatest hero? The worst villain?
(m) Do people think the present better or worse than the past?
(n) Do people believe the future will be better or worse than the present or past?

III. Questions of Sex and Family

(a) How many spouses may a man or woman have?
(b) Who decides on a marriage?
(c) Can a marriage end in divorce? How?
(d) Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?
(e) How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?
(f) How are families named?(g) What happens to orphans?
(h) How are boy and girl children treated differently?
(i) Are premarital relations allowed?
(j) How does your society define incest? Rape? How do people react to these?
(k) What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?
(l) What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?
(m) What secret vice actually is practiced?
(n) What sexual habits are widely believed common among foriegners?
(o) How do people react to homosexuality?
(p) How do the genders dress?
(q) Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?
(r) What professions or activities are considered masculine?
(s) What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?
(t) What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?
(u) What is the biggest sexual taboo?
(v) Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?
(w) What does this society mean by the word "virgin" and how important it it?

IV. Questions of Manners

(a) Who speaks first at a formal gathering?
(b) What kinds of gifts are considered in extremely bad taste?
(c) How do younger adults address their elders?
(d) What colors are associated with power? With virtue? With death?
(e) If two men get into a fight, how is this supposed to be resolved?
(f) If two women get into a fight, how should that be resolved?
(g) When is it rude to laugh at something funny?
(h) What kinds of questions cannot be asked in public? In private? At all?
(i) How do people demonstrate grief?
(j) What does this society do with their corpses?
(k) What kinds of jewelry do people where? And when?
(l) Who inheirits property? Titles? Position?
(m) What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness?
(n) What are the most popular games? How important are they?
(o) What parts of the body are routinely covered?
(p) How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?
(q) How do people react to physical deformity?
(r) When and how does someone go from child to adult?

V. Questions of Faith

(a) Is there a formal clergy? How are they organized?
(b) What do people believe happens to them after death? How, if at all, can they influence this?
(c) What happens to those who disagree with the majority on questions of religion?
(d) Are there any particular places considered special or holy? What are they like?
(e) What are the most popular rituals or festivals?
(f) What do people want from the god or gods? How do they try and get it?
(g) How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?
(h) What is the most commonly broken religious rule?(i) What is the least-violated religious rule?
(j) What factions exist within the dominant religious institutions? How do they compete?
(k) Are there monastic groups? What do they do and how are they organized? How do you join one?
(l) How are those who follow different faiths treated?
(m) What relationship do religious and political leaders have?
(n) What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural events/beings do people fear?

VI. Questions of Government

(a) Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?
(b) What kinds of punishments are meted out? By whom? Why?
(c) How are new laws created or old ones changed?
(d) Is there some form of clemency or pardon? What is involved?
(e) Who has the right to give orders, and why?
(f) What titles do various officials have?
(g) How are the rules different for officials as opposed to the common person?
(h) How do government officials dress?
(i) Is the law written down? Who interprets it?
(j) Once accused, what recourse does someone have?
(k) Is torture allowed? What kinds?
(l) How are people executed?
(m) Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?
(n) Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?
(o) What makes someone a bad ruler in this society? What can be done about it?
(p) What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?

VII. Questions of War

(a) Who declares war?
(b) Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?
(c) What happens to prisoners taken in battle?
(d) What form of warfare does this society use?
(e) Who are the Elite warriors? What distinguishes them?
(f) How does someone get command of troops?
(g) Where do the loyalties of military units lie?
(h) Are there professional soldiers? Do they make up the bulk of the military?
(i) Has this society ever attacked another? Do they want to? What would make them do so?
(j) Who are their enemies? Who's winning?
(k) What do soldiers do when there's no war?

VIII. Questions of Education

(a) Does this society have its own language? Its own writing?
(b) How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?
(c) What form and value are books?
(d) Who teaches others? How do they teach?
(e) Who decides who learns to read or write?(f) Who teaches professions, like carpenter or scribe?
(g) Are foreigners ever brought in to teach new skills? Who does that?
(h) How do this society's doctors try to treat wounds and sickness?
(i) Which medical assumtions of this society are wrong?

IX. Questions of Art

(a) What are the favorite artforms?
(b) What are the least-favorite?
(c) How respected are artists?
(d) Do artists require official or unofficial protection?
(e) What kinds of trouble are artists in particular likely to find themselves in?
(f) How might a very successful artist live?
(g) What forms of theatre does your society have?
(h) How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?
(j) What shapes are most common in your society's arts, like embroidery or architecture?
(k) Which artforms get the most and least respect?
(l) What form does censorship take?
(m) Who may not be an artist?
(n) What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?
(o) What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?
(p) How do people react to tattoos? Piercings? Facial hair? Make-up?

X. Questions of sex and marriage

(a) Is sex confined to marriage?
(b) Or, is it supposed to be? What constitutes aberrant behavior?
(c) Is there anything about this culture or religion in that culture that specifically addresses sexual conduct?
(d) Are there laws about it? What about prostitution?
(e) How old should someone be in your culture to be having sex?
(f) What is considered too great a difference in age for a couple?
(g) Do relationships allow multiple partners?
(h) Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?
(i) And, of course, what about homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?

XI. Questions of death and burial

(a) What is their understanding of death and dying?
(b) Do they cremate their dead? Or, how are dead bodies disposed of?
(c) Is the family responsible for the body?
(d) What part do the priests play?
(e) Are there cemeteries at all?
(f) Or, does everyone have a crypt in back with all the relatives in it?
(g) Do people visit the dead? If so, how often and why?

XII. Questions of suicide

(a) What do people in this culture think about suicide?
(b) Is it the greatest sin one can commit? Or is it a sin at all?
(c) Is it the great and last comfort of a tormented soul?
(d) Is it worse than murder?

XIII. Questions of Law, Justice and Police

(a) Is there a civilian police force, or is law enforcement the province of the military?
(b) Is the police force a nationalised one, or are there multiple regional forces?
(c) How "military" are they? Are they usually/ever armed?
(d) What is the extent of their authority? Can they shoot you? Can they use magic? Can they torture or otherwise force a confession? Can they use telepathy?
(e) Are there individuals or groups who are above the law?
(f) Is there a secret police?
(g) What is the role of police informants, if any?