Association for Feminist Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Ethnographers in the field record, document, and analyze their subject’s everyday experiences while advocating for the populations they study through small activities of local support. Over the past six years I have embedded training in fieldwork research in my introduction to cultural anthropology course, where my community college students explore student life and our broader community as native ethnographers. Similar to the practice of anthropologists in faraway sites, this experiential learning approach provides a record of these students’ college experiences, as well as of those of the surrounding Midwestern working class, for their subsequent analysis. Indeed, ethnography as pedagogy encourages critical engagement with theories of neocolonialism, human rights, and social equity, as well as with the practice of community outreach. In addition, it opens a space for students to actively pursue social justice, in contrast with the passive consumption of scholarly writing alone. In this paper, I draw from methods of instruction I have implemented with my long-time collaborators in highland Bolivia—indigenous market vendors and scholars—and with my students in the Midwest. I argue that small actions of championing and engaging with the communities where we work as we collect ethnographic data, contribute to social justice in both the field and the classroom. In true adherence to the spirit of anthropological research, these practices also lend a voice to marginalized populations, while providing a window into broader issues of valorization and stigma in education, in this way transcending geographic distances and the boundaries between teaching and advocacy.