The documentary “Tailenders” is dedicated to a social project organized by a missionary organization called Gospel Recordings. It is aimed at spreading audio recordings of Bible stories in every language of Earth and getting the message of Christ across the world. Gospels and evangelistic stories are spread in poor communities by means of low-tech audio devices so that the locals could hear and understand God’s words in their heart language. At times, indigenous people are unable to read or write, maintaining their languages by oral practices.
According to the data mentioned in the film, the recordings have been translated into 5485 languages, including currently unspoken ones which have been archived and catalogued. It goes without saying that there are a lot of limitations in performing such translations as some European notions or concepts do not exist in other cultures. Moreover, Biblical stories may be misunderstood and misinterpreted by the local translators as well as be converted in completely different texts, deviating from the core messages.
Given the fact that language interpretation differs from country to country and the language issue (accurate translation) is the focal point of the project, the first research question could be as follows: How can missioners make sure that the message is perceived by aborigines and Indians the right way (the way evangelical Church wants it to be understood)? The second research question may concern the accuracy of translations made by local spokesmen: What is the role of interpreters in conveying the meaning of messages? We may expect variations in treating even simple ideas, not to speak about putting complex scriptural ideas into words.
Apparently, some notions do not exist in cultures of aborigines at all, thereafter, the mission seems to be almost impossible without a knowledgeable interpreter. These two research questions (trees) may bring about the third concern about the effect of such missionary work on local communities (forest).
In other words, power comes into play and disseminates the beliefs which could be beneficial for some social or political groups. Touting the virtues of Western civilization may lead to negative consequences such as losing social identity or rejecting original confession (e.g. indigenous people start associating themselves with an alien confession; stop being engaged in community work for increasing social welfare as they feel different from their fellow tribesmen, etc.). Thus, the third research question may be connected with some ideologies standing behind the mission: Does a missionary campaign guarantee sanctity of local cultures or is it a hidden way of affecting them?
In order to answer these questions, we could try to apply comparative explanations, using the observations and transcribed interviews. We might be able to see how the life of individuals as well as the whole community/ies has been changing through time, whether the missionary work impacts lifestyles and shapes attitudes. Comparing the evidence of past life (by means of interviewing all the participants) and present routines we may come up with the answers to how useful/harmful these social practices are. Descriptive explanation may well support my comparative components, constructing an account of what is going on sites in this day and age. Bearing in mind the fact that the goal of qualitative research is to explain social processes and what stands behind them, we would also use theoretical explanations in order to answer my third research question whether a missionary campaign guarantees sanctity of local cultures or if it is a hidden way of affecting them. In other words, we could try to construct a theory of how power (Western civilization with all its advanced technologies) affects undisturbed indigenous populations of aborigines. Better understanding of ideologies could be significant for social sciences.
The data would be interpretative as they represent the evidence of how ideologies (political and cultural) affect communities with low levels of technological development or low standard of living. These data need interpretation for making a hypothesis. The empirical evidence that we might happen to collect may be the reflection of the world, however, the empirical patterns will require further development. Who are the stakeholders of religious practices? What benefits may stand behind missionary activities? And finally, what is the connection between missionary work and global capitalism?