Observation of Family Rituals

Activity Description:


To encourage students to reflect on the connections between rites of passage and family transitions


The study of middle-class family ritual is well suited to participation- observation fieldwork exercises, working individually or in small groups.

If appropriate, several students might attend a family ceremony, such as a Friday night seder.

Ask the students to write detailed fieldnotes (or perhaps even video the event).

Students might asked to compare their field notes afterwards. They could consider questions, such as:

  • Which aspects of the ritual struck them as significant and why?
  • Which aspects of a ritual script appear to be broadly invariant, and which appear open to creative improvisation?

The field notes in turn might be the basis of research papers, as students attempt to interpret their data in light of the interpretive models of Turner, Geertz, Babcock, Neville and others.

Activity Source:

Content contributed by Mark Auslander as a Suggested Work and Family Class Activity