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Nakuran Ethnographical Questionnaire

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.

Nakuras live in the Nakura region, from which they got their name. It is made up of the bottom flow of the Kā'ashæm river valley and its whole delta. It borders the conflux of Kā'ashæm and its tributaries on its southeastern side; it is walled off by hills in its river valley and by the Western Steppe on its northeast and southwest, encircling the delta. The delta area is extremely swampy.

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

The seasons of Nakura are very mild compared to the surrounding regions: there are generally two seasons, a summer and a winter, and an additional cycle of wet and dry seasons, depending on the upriver conditions. Snowfalls occur only during wet winters, and rains occur during wet summers and, rarely, dry winters.

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

Floods and droughts are very common, since the entire estuary shifts due to accumulation of debris from upstream. Hurricanes and extreme blizzards also occur, although more infrequently.

What are the most commonly-grown foods?

Since Nakurans are by most part hunter-gatherers, little to no food is grown.

What are the most commonly-eaten meats?

Since the overseas invasions that occured several thousand years prior, the Nakuras have been hunting the various species of non-native insectoids. These insectoids are most commonly prepared in stews and soups. Less commonly hunted and eaten is the native vertebrate fauna, much of which has developed self-conciousness and sentience. Some peripherial groups resort to eating the Ktarhs they have captured in war.

What foods are considered exotic or expensive?

Generally, the most luxurious food is the meat of vertebrates, since it is hard to come by, as hunters themselves become hunted by their prey.

What forms of alcohol are common? Rare?

Alcohol is not present in Nakura.

Is there usually enough food and water for the population?

There rarely is enough food for everyone, but water is overabundant most of the time.

What is this place's most abundant resource?

Nakura has plenty of fresh drinking water and floral structural materials. In the river valley, there are plenty of deposits of pitchblende and a smaller number of hematite. There are also some iron meteorites scattered through the valley and delta.

What is its most valuable resource?

Nakura has deposits of an extremely rare lightweight iron ore, whose structure and chemical composition is the same as that of normal hematite, despite its apparent density being three times lower. Other than this anomalous iron, there are, per Nakuran knowledge, no other true valuables.

What resource is it most lacking?

Nakuran tribes are in a constant need for food.

How do people travel from one place to another?

Travel is generally by foot, although ridden insectoids are also an option.

Are the borders secure? In what way?

Tribal and species borders are not secure, as constant wars are being waged.

How many people live here?

There are an estimated one million Nakurans in the entire delta region, with less than a third of the number in the valley.

Where in this place do they congregate?

Nakuran tribes are very scattered. The only region they gather to without war is the Mother Tree's Home, an area surrounding the tallest tree known to them.

What part of this place do they avoid? Why?

Nakurans generally avoid areas inhabited by other species and the upriver Ktarh.

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

Non-sentient insectoids are generally domesticated and used as war and hunting mounts and as a food source in a time of need.

What are the most common wild animals?

The various insectoid species that plague the delta.

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?

It goes back for, as counted according to generations of tribal kings, at least twenty generations of rulers.

How far back do its people believe it goes?

Most do not even write.

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?

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?

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?

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

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?

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?

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?

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?