2005 Report

Ethnographic Field Methods Program, Year 4


In 2005 the Center for Social Well Being carried out our June program with courses in language, ethnography, and field methods. Students were housed at the center’s rural base, an adobe lodge on an ecological ranch in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range of the Callejón de Huaylas, 7 hours northeast of Lima. Coursework consisted of classes in Spanish, Quechua, Ethnography of Andean Knowledge, and Participatory Action Research theory and methods.


An integrated seminar group of advanced undergraduate and graduate students from the US and Canada participated in the 2005 June Field School session. The program balanced formal classroom instruction with practical experience of field work team assignments. Students observed and participated with local residents in settings such as market bartering, local handicraft production, meetings with rural health promoters, primary school classes, organized women’s groups, participatory research sessions, preparation and celebration of fiestas, medicinal plant identification, gathering, and treatments; as well as daily and seasonal productive activities.

1) Andean culture and society

  • “The various opportunities we had to visit different people, villages, fiestas, etc. were all beneficial by the fact that just seeing new things going on and being able to observe, participate, reflect and question teaches a great deal. We were the determiners of how much we learned when all is said and done.
  • “Through the midwives, healers, weavers, Quechua language and dance teachers, I have felt their connection with the world – the flow of life. I also recognize the importance of herbs, especially the coca leaf.”
  • “In Andean culture there is a connection between the people and Nature that I admire completely, because I believe that having a connection with nature keeps us grounded and is essential for the well being of our spirit.”
  • “The most obvious aspect of the culture is the connection to the land, or Pachamama. Rituals and fiestas are centered around solstices and harvests, while women are conscious of the influence lunar cycles have on their bodily functions.”
  • “I have only begun to realize/see how much peoples’ connection to the earth determines their culture, and I do believe that I could never fully understand the Quechua people without first understanding the land.”
  • “Andean people have a very rich culture and they really respect and embrace their roots and beginnings, like keeping Quechua language alive and their ceremonies for pre-Catholic deities.”
  • “The thing that has impacted me the most is the work ethic of the Andean people… walking to town in the early morning I pass by many campesinos hard at work in their chacras where they remain working hard until dusk when I see the old ladies returning home with heavy loads on their back.”
  • “ I have been fascinated by – the healing processes, such as with the cuy, and the immense local knowledge of herbs, the fiesta preparation where all age groups work together in anticipation of the fiesta.”
  • “The Andean culture – is so full of strength and commitment to the culture itself and the people. There is an innate feeling of family and companionship here. I absolutely learned something about necessity and priorities and kinship from these people. I feel more in touch with different aspects of life and people. I only hope it lasts after I leave.”
  • “I felt at times overwhelmed because there was just too much to soak up and take in. I didn’t know what to expect coming here so pretty much everything sent a shocking sensation through me which took me awhile to get used to.”

2) Research Methods…

  • “Participation, I think the most important aspect of research, gives the researcher a taste and feel of a culture that observation alone cannot provide.”
  • “Participating in the social aspects of the culture, especially the markets were the most enjoyable for me. Being able to experience the positive and negative interactions on your own without guidance or someone else’s input makes for the best experiences and observations.”
  • “Going to the market and being out on the road were always valuable times of observation and immersion.”
  • “When working with communities it is extremely important to consult with community members and work toward goals that are reflective of the values of the community. Those working with communities should not impose external values on communities that have their own ways of looking at life and living it.”
  • “Community Participatory Investigation (autodiagnóstico) gives agency to the community members in deciding and pin-pointing problems, as well as how to prioritize them to work towards solutions.”

3) Setting / Context / Environment…

  • “The ranch is a good balance between the way students from the US are used to
    living and the way most people in the Andes really live.”
  • “I have found the setting of the ranch to be a magical and surreal experience with the beautiful and simple construction, friendly and hardworking people, this setting has filled my heart with wonderment and awe.”
  • “The rustic setting has made me appreciate the necessities of life and realize the wants in my own life. The setting has helped me to focus on the importance of simplicity.”
  • “La Casa de Pocha is a productive setting for learning, learning about the region, people and yourself. This has been a very rewarding experience and I will forever carry it with me.”
  • “Rather than insulting the existence of the setting by giving a less than perfect description, I should just remain in awe of the ever present beauty surrounding me.”
  • “I loved the view of the Cordillera Blanca and Negra from the pampa in Huaripampa; I also loved the mountains that surround Chavin. That was such a beautiful night, one of the most beautiful nights I have experienced in Peru. I would like to go there again sometime; Ancash is amazingly breath taking.”


Photo gallery


Jessie Reiss | University of New Mexico I found Open Veins of Latin America (Eduardo Galeano) to be an amazing insight to the history of Latin America; it was powerfully written from a perspective, which amply exemplified the raw exploitation of a country… | more… |

Paul Hood | University of Minnesota, Duluth After a ridiculous amount of traveling, I finally returned to the US. The journey home started on an island in Lake Titikaka. From there it took me five days to get home. Traveling to other places in Peru was the perfect … | more… |

Kate Hatchwell | University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada I too had an interesting experience travelling through Peru after the field school, and meeting up with Paul later on (as he may have mentioned). While travelling through different areas in the South we both agreed … | more… |

Stephanie Molina | University of California, Santa Cruz How are you doing? Hopefully great in Peru. As for myself, I am having a nice summer at home. My reason for e-mailing you is to Thank You once again for the opportunity you gave me of participating in this years … | more… |

Posted on: September 22, 2017admin
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