Observation participante

‘The method of participant observation is at the heart of the current debate on how new religious movements should be studied. Briefly stated, this approach, which is not new in the social sciences, encourages researchers to study the new movements by establishing direct contact with their members and by taking part, to a limited degree, in their lifestyles. Developed initially by Western anthropologists for the study of non-Western peoples, this now well-established method has been analyzed and discussed for decades and been adopted by most social scientists. The heart of this approach lies in its insistence that the observers should not apply an interpretation or judgment based solely on their own cultural assumptions and points of view. Rather, they should attempt to understand people’s behaviour from the perspective of the latter’s own cultural and religious norms and values. Thus, scholars are urged to avoid being ethnocentric. […] Participant observation has the advantage of studying people and their religious beliefs and practices directly without any intermediaries. By establishing relationships individuals with those individuals who are being studied, the researcher has a better opportunity of learning about their feelings, experiences, fears, and motivations. 53

Ce mode d’enquête a été utilisé de manière très réduite en raison du peu de temps disponible sur place, et dans une moindre mesure, à cause du coût de certains événements ou pratiques. Nous avons toutefois pu prendre part à des cérémonies (2 groupes) ; suivre des cours d’introduction sur l’auto-hypnose*, d’étude des textes védiques, de yoga; assister à des séances de massage, de prière et de méditation silencieuse (3 groupes).


 J. A. Saliba, Understanding New Religious Movements, 1995, p. 111.