Aboot the project

What the heck am I going to be doing in San Mateo, you may wonder?

Well, primarily I’m conducting field research for my senior thesis in Anthropology and Latin American Studies.

To contribute to that, I will be teaching a “workshop” on self-representation in Yinhatil Nab’en High School (“Seeds of Hope” in the Mayan language Chuj). The high school was built in 2005, and funded by The Ixtatán Foundation, through which I am working. I’ll be staying mainly at Ixtatán Foundation headquarters in San Mateo, and working with other volunteers.

My students will range in age from 16-23. They are all teachers- in- training, and the idea is to expose them to some different teaching methods, teach some technological skills (both Ixtatán Foundation’s objectives) and to generate a discussion on representation and identity (my objective) that they can then pass on to their students.

The workshop will consist of two parts: discussion (in-class) and “field photography.” The students will be working on several different, but ultimately related, projects over the course of three months. First, they will explore the town (and their relation to it) by taking photos of significant locations and events. Then they will interview friends and family in order to write biographical sketches and take their portraits.

Next, the students will construct autobiographies and create self-portraits using their medium of choice. Finally, continuing a project started last year by school administration, the students will be interviewing local survivors of the Guatemalan Civil War (1954-1996) and taking their portraits.

All of this will culminate in the creation of a website for the municipality of San Mateo, detailing the town’s history and history of its inhabitants.

I am conducting this workshop as Spanish 428 (Spanish Internship) at UofM. Part of the proposal for my internship included lesson plans and a journal, which will both take the form of another blog. For details and the progress of the workshop (en español), please see my internship blog.

All of this ties in quite nicely with my senior thesis project in Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. That project looks at photographic representation of indigenous Guatemalans from the Civil War (1954-1996) onwards.

Basically, I want to see how people are represented in photos (intentionally or not), how the intended audience sees those photos, and how the photos might have been (or could be) used by Other groups (ie: international human rights groups, the Media, etc). That’s the short version of it.


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