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Applied Anthropology: Ethnographic Field School - Huanchaco, Trujillo, Peru

Ethonographic Field School Huanchaco, Trujillo, Peru


The USU Ethnographic Field School has provided students with classroom instruction and hands-on experience/training in ethnographic methods since 2002. Designed and coordinated by USU Professor of Anthropology Bonnie Glass-Coffin, the field school acts as an Asset-Based Community Development program for a small community while providing students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to earn credit as participants in an ethnographic field school for anthropological/sociological research. The program is located in Huanchaco, Peru, a fishing village on the northwest coast of Peru near Trujillo and several famous archaeological sites. A local option is also available.

"The decision to go to Huanchaco, was a response to the challenges posed to the people of Huanchaco, Peru, a fishing "village" just outside the city of Trujillo on Peru's north central coast. Mirroring the history of in-migration and urbanization in other parts of coastal Peru, this fishing "village” has exploded in size over the last 20 years. In this period, Huanchaco has been transformed from a sleepy hamlet of less than 1000 residents with a subsistence fishing economy to a sprawling, demographically diverse region with a district-wide population of more than 50,000. Tourism, agri-business and other service-based (and mainly informal) employment have all but replaced fishing. While half-a-dozen fishermen in their traditional reed fishing boats called caballitos de totora still ply the waves in early morning and late afternoon, their numbers have declined rapidly over even the last five years, and today it is more common to see surf-boards than caballitos de totora on the water. This is definitely a region undergoing rapid and dramatic transition.

These changes as well as requests from Huanchaco residents lead us to do a more "action” oriented anthropology, called applied anthropology. Beginning in 2006, the USU Ethnographic Field School changed its focus and priorities. While ethnographic research is still an important component of the field school training, a model for beneficial social change emphasizing both participatory research methods and Asset-Based Community Development was developed and implemented by USU students and community partners in four very different sectors of Huanchaco. Students were organized into research teams and charged with identifying local panels of community experts to inventory individual and community-wide assets and to envision, design and carry-out grass-roots development projects together with these community partners. Study areas included Huanchaco (the district "seat” and former fishing village that has been most transformed by tourism), Huanchaquito (a nearby fishing village with a less developed business/tourism center), El Tablazo (a recent settlement away from the beach originally designated for refugees who had lost their homes to a recent "El Niño” flood) and Las Lomas (the most populated sector of the district and a settlement away from the beach that has attracted migrants from the mountains and tropical forests of northern Peru)."
--Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin
Dr. Bonnie Glass-Coffin