Tag Archives: Presenting ‘data’ in ethnography

Letter from Mongolia 02: The Kitchen-house

In terms of research methodology, this is an example of how a narrative can illustrate a particular mode of contribution by Mongolian women to revitalise their own spiritual tradition and its practices. Go to the end of this article for the framework against which such contributions can be mapped. In the following short story the pseudonyms initially selected for each person in the study have been retained. The women’s own words are in italicised text. 


The Kitchen-house

Yesterday evening I was in Narantsetseg’s house. We were having fun there! Narantseteg’s kitchen-house at the monastery is the central hub of activity for all her women friends as well as the lams and anyone else who comes to the monastery for other reasons. This is everyone’s first point of call, the place where someone should go for help, advice, or information.

Whilst so many others do come and go, this remains the primary venue for the ‘women’s circle’ where, whilst vegetables (mainly onions, potatoes, cabbage and carrots) are endlessly chopped, conversations about anything and everything and everyone continue unabated, except of course when the Abbot or another senior visiting prelate happens to pop in.

Whilst Jijig emee (Mong. for ‘little lady’) was doing her prostrations, she remembered one old story and started telling us, “In the early days there was one man who, whilst prostrating to his protector, got the idea to slaughter his big, red bull.” Then Narantsetseg laughed at her and said, ‘You are not prostrating properly anymore either are you?’ We all laughed.

Over many years, I have come to understand that Jijig emee is an absolutely devout practitioner of her faith. She also becomes somewhat eccentric, deviating from conventional behaviour, frequently and particularly when in the company of these, her female friends. Now well into her 80s, the stories she tells are always colourful and require a closer reading after the telling due to their content. These are not an old woman’s ramblings. Her mind remains as sharp as a tack!

I do not claim to understand all of jijig emee’s own stories. However, what I can say is that she takes great delight in telling these. Some are incredibly long. Others are quick plays that extend and bend conventional Buddhist practices and take the listener, through the use of unexpected imagery, to unexpected places, and at times even unexpected insights into the human condition. She told us another story, about one man who took a 100 tugrik bill and put it in his mouth and held it there with his lips whilst he continued to do hundreds of prostrations.


Now here’s a question for you:

What do you think is the mode of contribution described in this short story?

I have my own thoughts on the subject, but heh, now its over to you! (see below)


Landscape 09: Modes of Contribution


Source: Edited extract from Pleteshner, C. (2011). Nomadic Temple: Daughters of Tsongkhapa in Mongolia (Unpublished manuscript).  The Zava Damdin Sutra and Scripture Institute Library Archive in the Manjushri Temple, Soyombot Oron, Mongolia), pp167-168.



During my post-graduate studies in Melbourne I was introduced to the strategy of writing short stories as a way of presenting ethnographic qualitative research data by Dr Mark Stevenson. This article is an example of such an approach. 



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end of transcript.

If you found Letter from Mongolia 02: The Kitchen-house interesting, then I suggest:

Please refer to the INDEX for other articles that may be of interest.

© 2023. CP in Mongolia. This post is licensed under the  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions.   Posted: 15 April 2024. Last updated: 16 April 2024.