Nuaaā 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.


Questions of Place

Describe the geography of where your society calls home.

Describe the climate your society deals with. How severe are their seasons?


What kinds of natural disasters has this society gotten used to?

What are the most commonly-grown foods?

What are the most commonly-eaten meats?

What foods are considered exotic or expensive?

The Swamp Kids originated in a warm climate with a dense population and moved slowly northward into wide-open countryside with snow on the ground for about six months of the year. Throughout their existence they never discarded their cultural appreciation for the tropical foods, particularly spicy foods, that they had been familiar with in their original homeland. Fighting war after war did not stop the Swamp Kids from spending large amounts of money to import spicy foods from the old homelands in the south into the remotest parts of the Empire.

What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?

Despite being the descendants of the world champions of alcohol production and consumption, the Pabaps, the Swamp Kids banned alcohol early on and never wavered. For the most, they kept alcohol out of the hands of all the minorities in their Empire as well until they got to Baeba Swamp, where there were too many possible sources of fermentable beverages for even a government as strict as the Swamp Kids (and their oppressed people who were also strongly anti-alcohol) to control.

The total prohibition of alcohol was one of the few areas where the Swamp Kids and the Raspara people who preyed upon them actually cooperated willingly instead of the Raspara pushing the Swampies around and calling it friendship.

Is there usually enough food and water for the population?

What is this place's most abundant resource?

What is its most valuable resource?

What resource is it most lacking?

How do people travel from one place to another?

Are the borders secure? In what way?

Definitely not. However, Anzan is unique among empires in that most of the invasions it suffered were uprisings from within rather than formal wars started by foreign powers.

How many people live here?

Where in this place to they congregate?

What part of this place do they avoid? Why?

What are the most common domesticated animals here? And what are they domesticated for?

What are the most common wild animals?

Which animals are likely to be pets? Which ones won't be?

Questions of Time

How far back does this society's written history go?

How far back do its people believe it goes?

What is the worst disaster they believe they've faced?

What was the best thing that every happened to them?

What in their past makes them feel ashamed?

What in their past makes them proud?

What are they afraid of happening again?

What are they hoping will happen? Do they think it likely?

What do they assume the future will hold?

How has this society changed? Do its current members realize this?

What are the most popular stories about the past?

Who in the past is the greatest hero? The worst villain?

Do people think the present better or worse than the past?

Do people believe the future will be better or worse than the present or past?

Questions of Sex and Family

How many spouses may a man or woman have?

Polygamy is allowed, and the culture is so militaristic and yet so militarily delicate that its male population was constantly getting cut up and turned into juice by the peoples around them, leaving very few men for the women in the cities. Thus polygamy is common.

Who decides on a marriage?

Can a marriage end in divorce? How?

Who usually takes custody of children if a marriage ends for some reason?

How is adultery defined? What (if any) is the punishment? Who decides?

How are families named?(g) What happens to orphans?

How are boy and girl children treated differently?

Gender roles are defined strictly. Boys are prepared for military service, girls are prepared for a life as a mother or nurse. Since this division of labor leaves literally nobody to do the actual work required to keep the society functioning, the Swamp Kids have at times enslaved populations around them, considering them outside the gender system because they were not Swamp Kids. They have not always been so lucky, however, as to have slaves, and they have also had the far greater problem of seeing their male population stolen from them as slaves for the parasitic Raspara minority, leaving their labor force even weaker. The result of this is that the military has had to take over farming operations, and women have to had to take over urban maintenance jobs such as cleaning up waste. The Swamp Kids had overthrown a government that enslaved the entire population from the age of 3 years old onward, and abolished child labor the day they seized power. From this, they never wavered even when their child population soared so high that the median age of their population was in the single digits and they had become literally a nation of kids.

However, in practice, a very mild form of child labor did exist, since children needed to get their own food, clothes, and so on, rather than having their mothers run all around the city doing it for them. This simply was not considered to be a form of work since the children were choosing what they wanted on their own (though the Swamp Kids offered them very few choices).

Are premarital relations allowed?

How does your society define incest? Rape? How do people react to these?

What, if anything, is considered a good marriage gift?

What secret vice is believed to be widely practiced?

What secret vice actually is practiced?

What sexual habits are widely believed common among foriegners?

How do people react to homosexuality?

How do the genders dress?

The Swamp Kids inherited a cultural fear of sharp objects from their ancestors. They tended to cover more of their body than would be expected for the climate they lived in, and to put thick clothes on top of thinner clothes. All of this was intended to protect the Swamp Kids from being cut by sharp thorns on bushes and flowers and other everyday objects such as wooden crates. Often they also wore kneepads for extra padding in case they fell down and hurt themselves on the ground.

Is prostitution legal? How are prostitutes viewed? Is this accurate?

Most Swampies are prostituted by a minority population called the Zenith. The Zeniths are the descendants of the Fua people, who lived amongst the Pabaps for thousands of years and similarly prostituted the Pabaps. The Swampies themselves have always outlawed prostitution but have been unable to stop the Zeniths from grabbing theie people off the streets. When the Raspara people declared war on the Zenith armies in the year 4149, the Zeniths fled into the Swamp Kids' territory and the Swampies realized that their prostitution problem was about to get much worse.

Because all prostitutes are captives, the Swamp Kids consider all prostitution of their people to be rape even if the prostitutes are allowed to keep some of the money for themselves in order to buy themselves basic necessities. Thus, they refuse to prosecute prostitutes. Generally, they avoid prosecuting the prostituents as well, except occasionally for those that are Zeniths or members of another group that is hostile to the Swamp Kids. However, the Zeniths generally do not respect the Swamp Kids' legal system and most Zeniths caught raping a Swampy prostitute will refuse to be arrested and therefore the police generally try to avoid confronting even the Zeniths for fear of losing a valuable member of their police force.

What professions or activities are considered masculine?

What professions or activities are viewed as feminine?

What inanimate or sexless things are considered male or female?

What is the biggest sexual taboo?

Does this society connect the ideas of marriage with love?

What does this society mean by the word "virgin" and how important it it?

Questions of Manners

Who speaks first at a formal gathering?

What kinds of gifts are considered in extremely bad taste?

How do younger adults address their elders?

The Swamp Kids refer to all of their males as boys , reserving men for their leaders. Ethnic minorities' males are also called men. This has led minorities to feel that the Swamp Kids have an inferiority complex.

What colors are associated with power? With virtue? With death?

If two men get into a fight, how is this supposed to be resolved?

If two women get into a fight, how should that be resolved?

When is it rude to laugh at something funny?

What kinds of questions cannot be asked in public? In private? At all?

How do people demonstrate grief?

What does this society do with their corpses?

What kinds of jewelry do people where? And when?

Who inheirits property? Titles? Position?

What happens to those suffering from extreme mental illness?

What are the most popular games? How important are they?

What parts of the body are routinely covered?

How private are bodily functions like bathing or defecating?

How do people react to physical deformity?

When and how does someone go from child to adult?

Questions of Faith

Is there a formal clergy? How are they organized?

What do people believe happens to them after death? How, if at all, can they influence this?

What happens to those who disagree with the majority on questions of religion?

Are there any particular places considered special or holy? What are they like?

What are the most popular rituals or festivals?

What do people want from the god or gods? How do they try and get it?

How do their religious practices differ from their neighbours?

What is the most commonly broken religious rule?(i) What is the least-violated religious rule?

What factions exist within the dominant religious institutions? How do they compete?

Are there monastic groups? What do they do and how are they organized? How do you join one?

How are those who follow different faiths treated?

What relationship do religious and political leaders have?

What superstitions are common? What kinds of supernatural

events/beings do people fear?

Questions of Government

Who decides whether someone has broken a law? How?

What kinds of punishments are meted out? By whom? Why?

How are new laws created or old ones changed?

Is there some form of clemency or pardon? What is involved?

Who has the right to give orders, and why?

What titles do various officials have?

How are the rules different for officials as opposed to the common person?

How do government officials dress?

Is the law written down? Who interprets it?

Once accused, what recourse does someone have?

Is torture allowed? What kinds?

How are people executed?

Who cannot rise to positions of leadership?

The original founders of the Swamp Kids party (called the Tinks at that time) were men aged 50 and older, and they did not allow anyone younger than them to hold any power. This is because they realized that their people had been oppressed so severely for more than forty years that nobody any younger than 50 would have remembered anything else, and would not understand how to run a government properly. They preferred people that were at least 60, but realized that their nation had a very high birth rate and a very high death rate, and that their generation would entirely vanish soon. Thus, within a few years, the elderly Tinks were replaced by teenagers, and they remained a nation run by teenagers for the rest of their existence.

Is bribery allowed? Under what circumstances?

What makes someone a bad ruler in this society? What can be done about it?

What are the most common or dangerous forms of criminal?

Questions of War

Who declares war?

The Swamp Kids were at war for their entire existence. The people in charge of adding a new war to the wars they were already fighting were an elected class of military generals. However, the Swamp Kids were more commonly the victim of an invasion rather than the author of it.

Who has the power to declare conditions of peace?

What happens to prisoners taken in battle?

What form of warfare does this society use?

Who are the Elite warriors? What distinguishes them?

How does someone get command of troops?

Where do the loyalties of military units lie?

Are there professional soldiers? Do they make up the bulk of the military?

Has this society ever attacked another? Do they want to? What would make them do so?

Who are their enemies? Who's winning?

What do soldiers do when there's no war?

Questions of Education

Does this society have its own language? Its own writing?

How common is literacy? How is literacy viewed?

What form and value are books?

Who teaches others? How do they teach?

Who decides who learns to read or write?(f) Who teaches professions, like carpenter or scribe?

Are foreigners ever brought in to teach new skills? Who does that?

How do this society's doctors try to treat wounds and sickness?

Which medical assumtions of this society are wrong?

Questions of Art

What are the favorite artforms?

What are the least-favorite?

How respected are artists?

Do artists require official or unofficial protection?

What kinds of trouble are artists in particular likely to find themselves in?

How might a very successful artist live?

What forms of theatre does your society have?

How naturalistic or stylized is your society's art?

What shapes are most common in your society's arts, like embroidery or architecture?

Which artforms get the most and least respect?

What form does censorship take?

Who may not be an artist?

What qualities equal "beauty" in this society?

What makes a man or woman especially beautiful?

How do people react to tattoos? Piercings? Facial hair? Make-up?

Questions of sex and marriage

Is sex confined to marriage?

Or, is it supposed to be? What constitutes aberrant behavior?

Is there anything about this culture or religion in that culture that specifically addresses sexual conduct?

Are there laws about it? What about prostitution?

How old should someone be in your culture to be having sex?

What is considered too great a difference in age for a couple?

Do relationships allow multiple partners?

Should sex be a one-to-one experience? Or are groups allowed?

And, of course, what about homosexuality? Is it frowned on? Encouraged?

Questions of death and burial

What is their understanding of death and dying?

Do they cremate their dead? Or, how are dead bodies disposed of?

Is the family responsible for the body?

What part do the priests play?

Are there cemeteries at all?

Or, does everyone have a crypt in back with all the relatives in it?

Do people visit the dead? If so, how often and why?

Questions of suicide

What do people in this culture think about suicide?

Is it the greatest sin one can commit? Or is it a sin at all?

Is it the great and last comfort of a tormented soul?

Is it worse than murder?

Questions of Law, Justice and Police

Is there a civilian police force, or is law enforcement the province of the military?

Is the police force a nationalised one, or are there multiple regional forces?

How "military" are they? Are they usually/ever armed?

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?

Are there individuals or groups who are above the law?

Is there a secret police?

What is the role of police informants, if any?