2009 Report

Field School – Students’ Reflections


Our 2009 Field Methods and Quechua Language courses were held from May through August. Undergraduate and graduate student participants came from the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Korea, Mexico and Germany, with academic emphases in Anthropology, Archaeology, Latin American Studies, Spanish, Political Science, International Studies, Biology, Environmental Science, Public Policy, Ethics and Political Science. Several students from each session stayed on to support our work with local communities and to carry out further independent field research.

Andean Culture and Society

  • “There is a strong integration of the spiritual, cultural and physical in almost every aspect of Andean life. A clear example of this is the Quechua cosecha dance, imitating the action of planting and harvesting, performed to celebrate the provision of Pachamama.”
  • “I’ve learned a lot about an overlying structure of Andean philosophy – the cosmovisión that Professor Martín often brought up during Quechua lessons, which suggested it was deeply enmeshed in the history of the Andean people and their lives right down to the formation and structure of their language.”
  • “I’ve learned about the cyclical Quechua view of everything that is in being, and about the inherent equality of everything, the balance and co-dependence that exists in this cultural view.”
  • “Talking with midwives and learning about traditional medicine I began to understand the difficult struggle of traditional culture in the face of modernity.”
  • “Visits with healers revealed the understanding of health and wellbeing as defined just as much by social and environmental factors as ‘organic’ or ‘biological’ ones.”
  • “The holistic perspective on the body and how it fits into social and environmental spheres, is significant of how individuals view their well being and role in the community.”
  • “Walking to and from town people are always on their feet, ready to do what needs to be done next; whether that be selling of goods at market, taking a visit to the nearby healer, attending mass, purchasing bread or chicha at the local shop.”
  • “The cuy healing diagnostic is an extremely powerful tool, and an ancestral one, as well as natural and economic.”
  • “The saints seem to act as intermediaries between church and people. Apparently, the church designates the saints, but the people choose how to interact and celebrate with them. Saint Ursula, coming down from Hualcán with a hat on, adorned with maize and potatoes, is a prime example of this.”
  • “Shamefully, I had never realized the relationship between the words ‘culture’ and ‘agriculture’ until now, and it is only now that I see how the two are so closely linked. It is no accident that 4000 types of tubers and potatoes grow in Peru, and even their names are closely linked to Andean culture and practices – it seems that they are most often named for function, use in cooking and aesthetics.”
  • “The people I have met and interacted with in Andean communities have not only been kind and generous, but have been welcoming. They have allowed me to see more clearly how their lives are defined – less by their own individual experiences and more by their relationship with one another and to the land.”
  • “I was delighted to see, touch, smell and taste a wide variety of potatoes, all of which had their own rainbow of sensory attributes. The time, care and culinary (as well as cultural) knowledge that goes into creating the pachamanca (earth oven) is mind blowing. Choosing the rocks, the timing of when and how to place the food, which branches to cover the mound, and finally the feast – all this knowledge has been passed on from generation to generation.”
  • “The stress of globalization presents a demand on the local community to conserve their biodiversity while familiarizing themselves with the processes that threaten it.”
  • “I have learned of the deep respect campesinos have for the land and Pachmama; the reverence with which they describe Andean musical practices, and the pride they take in sharing the bounty of their lands. I have also learned of the turbulent past in the Andes and the current constant encroachment of global corporations, hungry for minerals.”
  • “The sustainable views shared in the Andes – seeing water as a dynamic part of nature rather than as a resource to ‘use,’ natural foods and herbs preferred in their pure form, and crop diversity over monocropping, are all healthy for both the people that consume them and for the soil.”

Field Work

  • “Learning to develop open eyes and ears to all opportunities and to take them, regardless of how tangential they might seem, has been an amazing experience and one I look forward to furthering. It’s tough to feel like you have your sea legs so late in the journey, but learning to talk to people has been extremely productive. Thinking of questions and conveying information across a language barrier has taught me a lot – especially about the willingness and kindness of some people to open up and communicate.”
  • “Building relationships is the key to any field experience.”
  • “I became conscious of the importance of reciprocal relationships. What am I taking from individuals who talk with me? How can I show that I honor the knowledge they’re sharing with me?”
  • “I have learned that you just need to go out and talk to people; once this was learned and I began to relax, I found my experiences became better and better. If you stop expecting a specific outcome and simply let the people teach you, you learn so much more.”
  • “What I have learned most is that the simple acts of listening or doing prove to be the most informative ways of collecting cultural data.”
  • “For future scenarios, I now know how to get along with and collaborate collectively with a group whose backgrounds and opinions are different from my own and still be able to have my beliefs and be heard.”
  • “My core finding is that language is important but not to be completely relied upon. Teamwork and collaboration are probably the key to a good project.”
  • “My vague notion of anthropological field methods was greatly altered through my time here, and the term Participatory Action Research became a mantra. I realize now that research and social programs are all well and good, but they are meaningless without community participation, action and sustainability.”
  • “Participating in field in this type of field work has greatly expanded my ability to connect personally with the people I have involved myself with, which will only allow many more interesting and beneficial relationships into my life both personally and professionally.”
  • “I have found that the process of Participatory Action Research could satisfy my yearning for community involvement.”
  • “Participatory Action research was the best thing I got out of field work – designing and modifying research to help and involve the community. The cyclical way of constantly reflecting and improving your methods is a new way of thinking for me. I look forward to learning about a community through its social dynamics, local people, traditions, power structure, interaction with politics and any other immediate concerns to the community members.”
  • “The most significant aspect of Participatory Action Research is that it is about creating relationships. But doing so in a manner that is engaging many different types of people…listening to all the voices and truly being present and open to know how to create something of value in the community.”
  • “I have learned that field work needs a lot of four things (among others): a defined focus that is something that you are genuinely interested in and willing to talk about, as well as persistence, patience and flexibility.”
  • “This has been my first taste of field work and I learned that no matter how much you plan, you have to realize that everything can change, and something wonderfully unexpected could come out of it! Flexibility is definitely key to field work.”
  • “The most important thing I have learned from this field school is that field work is not easy. Engaging with others and their community takes time, patience and constant reflection on yourself.”
    “When studying one specific aspect of Andean life the researcher must have knowledge of every other part of life. Healing cannot be understood without including farming livelihood and social hierarchy, as well as the meaning of religion, etc.”
  • “I now know that you need a balance of interviews/academic research and participatory research to do field work. I would like to work on the action aspect because as I have observed religious practices and I have become aware of the politics involved, and would like to know different community perspectives.”
  • “At the Archaeology museum in Huaraz, it was amazing how vibrant and intricate all the objects were – pottery, tools, sculptures, textiles. After gazing at certain ceramics I noticed how similar they looked to contemporary ceramic cooking pots, which led me to explore the ceramic making village of Taricá where I was again able to see similarities and continuities of style with ancient cultures of Chavin and Recuay.”
  • Overall I would argue that that field work exists wherever there is someone to do it, and that it is both a conscious and unconscious effort.

The setting and environment

  • “Learning the ecology side of things here we have all become more aware about the insane amount of trash humans create. It doesn’t just disappear once we are done with it, it has to go somewhere.”
  • Throughout this program I have realized the usefulness of everything around me, almost every plant you can see has some sort of medicinal property. All of this was greatly enhanced by the eco-friendly setting we were in.
  • “The solar ovens and solar panels were fascinating – something I’d be interested in doing at home. The water heater in particularly worked really well and seems like a great option for this environment – and for getting people ‘off the grid’ and paying less to the government.”
  • “One of my favorite parts of the field school was the hikes where I learned most about the environment. During the dawn hike I learned to say ‘I saw the beautiful snow-capped mountain’ in Quechua, which made me realize how Quechua is inclusive of nature as a being to be respected, rather than a separate ‘thing’ as in English.”
  • “La Casa de Pocha, these mountains and the town of Carhuaz have given me a good space and time to find some peace, adjust and rebalance my life, as well as enjoy the rich company of the other students.”
  • “Pocha’s lifestyle and home have brought a new level of harmony in my life during my time here. We’ve been blessed to live at place like this!”
  • “Simply living at La Chacra de Pocha I have been exposed to so many possible methods for conserving the environment and sustainable living.”

Changing perceptions

  • “My experience in Peru has been very fun and informative. Even though it may be easier to grab a book to learn about Andean culture, it is better to actually experience it and gain knowledge. To fully understand the culture, a person must live and embrace it.”
  • “This program has allowed me to further explore the concept of wellbeing and to ponder the ways this concept changes, not only in terms of our understanding of development, but also with regard to our relationships with others.”
  • “Overall, this experience has helped me to gain a greater understanding of Andean cultural practices, Peruvian society, the environment, and myself. All these learnings came through the generosity of self, spirit and mind which has been shown to me by everyone here. The experiences and knowledge gained will help me in my future endeavors and inform my decisions about my profession, and life in general, for many years.”


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2009 Field School – Students’ Reflections
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Posted on: September 22, 2017admin
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