Peru: Indigenous Peoples and Globalization

Key Features

Cantagallo, indigenous community in Lima

In the Peru: Indigenous Peoples and Globalization study abroad program, students examine Peru's traditional and contemporary indigenous societies in the context of both Peruvian identity politics and the transnational pressures of globalization. With 35-45 percent of the country's population identifying as either campesino or as a member of a native Amazonian community, Peru is an ideal location to analyze the pressures indigenous groups are currently facing.  Students are challenged to scrutinize the complex effects of multiple identities, transition, identity politics, and marginalization visible in Peru today.

Program Components
In addition to the in-country orientation and concluding re-entry and wrap-up exercises, the program consists of the following components:

  • A six-week homestay in Cusco during which students take intensive Spanish and Quechua language instruction and begin their Research Methods and Ethics course and the thematic courses on indigenous people and globalization
  • A three-week period in which students conduct field studies and complete educational excursions
  • A four-week Independent Study Project

In the first phase of the program, students spend six weeks living with a homestay family in middle class neighborhoods located 10-15 minutes from downtown Cusco. In Cusco, students participate in lectures on topics such as: the relationship between community justice and national law; genetic copyrights of native ancestral knowledge and the development of transnational pharmaceutical research; property rights, native ancestral territory rights, and national investment projects in the Amazon (including oil and gas); and the predominance of the Spanish language vs. native language preservation. In Cusco, students also take Spanish language classes and begin studying Quechua.

Field Study and Research
Field-based exercises are an essential component of the Peru: Indigenous Peoples and Globalization program. The Research Methods and Ethics course focuses on the concepts of learning across cultures and from field experience. Material includes:

  • Cross-cultural adaptation and skills building
  • Appropriate methodologies
  • Field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy
  • Developing skills in observation and interviewing
  • Gathering, organizing, and communicating data

Assigned papers provide an opportunity for students to test the tools introduced during the seminar while providing occasions for discussions on ethics and intercultural readings. Throughout the course, students work to properly develop their research topics for their Independent Study Project. Students significantly advance their initial ideas, assumptions, and drafts, in close consultation with their academic director.

Sunset over the river along the village of 20 de Enero, Loreto Province

Independent Study Project (ISP)
Students spend the last month of the program working on an Independent Study Project (ISP) in which they conduct primary research on a selected topic. These individual research projects allow students to directly apply the concepts and skills of their experience-based learning in the Research Methods and Ethics course and their interdisciplinary coursework, while exploring a topic of particular significance to them. Sample ISP topics include:

  • Role of oral histories, legends, and myths in ethnocultural preservation
  • Knowledge transmission
  • Changing agricultural practices
  • Ecotourism as a community development model
  • Grassroots empowerment
  • Urban "cholo" communities
  • Generational dynamics in cultural pride and heritage

In conducting their ISP, students often benefit from close engagement with SIT partners including:  ProNaturaleza, an Amazon and conservationist NGO in Iquitos; and Centro de Estudios Literarios Antonio Cornejo Polar, an important cultural center in Lima.

Role of the ISP Advisor
Although the precise role of each student's ISP advisor may vary according to particular circumstances, the ISP advisor is generally a host national or long-time foreign resident in Peru, who has expertise in the student's field of interest. Advisors include host-country academics, field professionals, artisans, and other experts.

In addition to providing needed expertise, the advisor works with their student on the design, implementation, and evaluation of their research project. Students will generally meet with their advisor for five, two-hour sessions. The first session is likely to be devoted to an exploration of the student's background in the subject area, his or her topic of study, the preliminary project proposal, and how the project fits into the student's undergraduate curriculum and broader interests. Together, the student and his/her advisor agree on specific requirements (to be submitted to the academic director for approval) and on an initial plan of action. The following three sessions, held at regular intervals during the semester, are devoted to a discussion of the student's progress and resolution of any difficulties. The last session, held at the conclusion of the program, is an evaluation of the final research product, which will have been submitted to the advisor beforehand.

Costs Dates

Credits: 17

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Cuzco

Language Study: Quechua,  Spanish

Prerequisites: 4 semesters Spanish


View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Fall 2012 Evaluations (PDF)

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