Ecuador

Development, Politics, and Languages

Study indigenous concepts of sustainability as it intersects with biological diversity, culture, and quality of life in Ecuador.

At a Glance

Credits

16

Prerequisites

3 semesters Spanish

Language of Study

Spanish

Courses taught in

Spanish

Dates

Jan 26 ‎– May 9

Program Countries

Ecuador

Program Base

Quito

Critical Global Issue of Study

Development & Inequality

Development & Inequality Icon

Identity & Human Resilience

Identity & Human Resilience Icon

Overview

Why Ecuador?

Living in Ecuador, you will experience a multilingual and multiethnic nation that is also one of the America’s most biologically diverse countries. Here, you’ll study development as well as alternatives grounded in indigenous worldviews that call for respect of natural resources. Two homestays will deepen your understanding of both urban and rural life and culture in Ecuador.

On excursions to the threatened Intag Forest Reserve and the Galápagos Islands you will observe the conflict between development and natural resource preservation. You will also visit Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and main port, to learn about the city’s social inequity and ethnic diversity, and examine issues of cultural identity, development, and regionalism.

You’ll explore how Spanish and indigenous languages are used to reinforce and reinvent power relationships as you consider how intercultural and interethnic relations are shaped. You will learn basic Quichua and develop your Spanish language skills through classroom instruction, homestays, excursions, and cultural immersion.

Highlights

  • Study development, power, and language in a multilingual, multiethnic society.
  • Visit the spectacular Galápagos Islands, the Cloud Forest, Upper Amazon Basin, and Guayaquil.
  • Explore how languages instill, reinforce, and subvert power relationships.
  • Learn how to identify your own cultural biases and imagine a different society.

Prerequisites

Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.

Excursions

UPPER AMAZON BASIN EXCURSION

During this four-day excursion, you will experience direct exposure to political ecology and socio-linguistic issues regarding this highly diverse but threatened region. Kichwa (Quichua) cosmology and mythology, language revitalization initiatives, interethnic and market relations, resource management, and political mobilization are examined in the vicinity of the Napo River.

Intag Cloud Forest Reserve

During your excursion to Intag Cloud Forest Reserve, you’ll witness the conflicts and links between development and natural resource preservation in one of the most biologically diverse, but threatened, ecosystems in the world. You will examine how Ecuador is addressing one of its most challenging and controversial issues: how to develop while preserving the natural resources its development has so often depended upon.

Guayaquil

Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and main port. During your excursion here, you will explore a city with social inequity and ethnic diversity, including large Chinese and Lebanese communities. You will also discuss issues of cultural identity and difference, local urban imaginaries, development, and regionalism.

Galápagos Islands

You will visit the Galápagos Island to explore the impact of sustainability and tourism and the ways in which a place is constructed through dramatically varying discourses. During your excursion, you will visit civil society organizations, natural history sites, and learn about conservation initiatives led by the Charles Darwin Research Station and National Park headquarters.

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Academics

Coursework

Access virtual library guide.

This program will offer students a multidisciplinary study of Ecuador’s complex indigenous and colonial history, the power dynamics of different languages, and hegemonic and counter-hegemonic development discourses. Students will combine theory and practice as they study the politics and evolution of language over time. They will also develop a deeper understanding of dominant and resistant discourses related to development, politics, sustainability and other issues in Ecuador. They will study research methods and examine ethical issues surrounding field research, which will prepare them for their Independent Study Project.

The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

Please expand the sections below to see detailed course information, including course codes, credits, overviews, and syllabi.

Key Topics

  • Power and politics; hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses
  • How different groups think and talk about societal issues
  • Development’s impact on environment, sustainability, and life
  • The language(s) of political power and social movements
  • Indigenous languages, politics, interculturalism and plurinationality

Languages in Contact: Spanish, Quichua, and Other Languages in Ecuador

Languages in Contact: Spanish, Quichua, and Other Languages in Ecuador – syllabus
(LACB3000 / 3 credits)

In this seminar, students combine theory and practice to study Ecuador’s languages in three different manners. First, from a cultural standpoint, students learn about the encounter between Spanish and Ecuador’s indigenous languages and how language and power have interacted and contributed to tensions between domination and resistance. They look closely at Ecuadorian Spanish to ask what makes Ecuador’s Spanish Ecuadorian, examining the influence of different populations, time periods, and events on the evolution of the language, considering regional differences as well. Finally, they study Quichua, Ecuador’s main indigenous language, examining the politics of bilingual education, questions surrounding intellectual production and translation, and the use of Quichua in different settings. Students also examine the growing concern for other indigenous languages, particularly those in danger of extinction. Finally, all students participate in a workshop of introductory lessons in Quichua to finish out this experience. This course is conducted in Spanish, although it may occasionally include a few readings in English and in Quichua.

Paradigms of Development and Political Discourse in Ecuador

Paradigms of Development and Political Discourse in Ecuador – syllabus
(LACB3005 / 3 credits)

Discourse and power are related in all nations, but Ecuador has a particularly sophisticated discursive system in place. At the same time, counter-hegemonic discourses are also prevalent. In this broadly defined interdisciplinary seminar, students examine the core political and development themes of the program and inquire specifically into the complex relationships between development, power, and politics in Ecuador. After a review of Ecuadorian history, socio-political movements and development paradigms, students consider the concept of political discourse as an object of study. Through lectures, course readings, site visits, and excursions, students examine several dominant discourses related to development, politics, sustainability, interethnic relations, and other issues in Ecuador. They study resistant discourses to ask how people are voicing alternative ways of knowing and developing. While learning about politics and development in Ecuador, students construct a nuanced understanding of how discourse has been used to instill, reinforce, subvert, and reinvent power relationships over time in this nation. This course is conducted in Spanish, although it may occasionally include a few readings in English.

Spanish for the Social Sciences

Spanish for the Social Sciences I – syllabus
(SPAN2003 / 3 credits)

Spanish for the Social Sciences II – syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits)

Spanish for the Social Sciences III – syllabus
(SPAN3003 / 3 credits)

Spanish for the Social Sciences IV – syllabus
(SPAN3503 / 3 credits)

In this course, students refine their Spanish language skills, with a focus on enhancing oral proficiency. The course deepens students’ contact with public, private, and community media in Ecuador and includes visits to several relevant sites in Quito, such as the Secretaría Nacional de Comunicación and Fundamedios. Students take an ungraded placement exam to determine the appropriate class placement. The outgoing exam includes both a written and an oral component.

Research Methods and Ethics

Research Methods and Ethics syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits)

In this research methods course designed to prepare students for the Independent Study Project (ISP), students examine the ethical challenges of field research and learn how to prepare a research proposal and how to employ basic ethnographic methods appropriate to a range of themes as well as more specific methods appropriate to the study of politics, language, and discourse. By the end of the course students will have chosen an ISP topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an ISP related to the program themes. The course is conducted in Spanish with occasional sessions in English.

Independent Study Project

Independent Study Project syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits)

Conducted in Quito or in another approved location in Ecuador appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program’s broad concerns with power, politics, language, and development. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper.

Sample ISP topics:

  • Linguistic landscape of Quito
  • Discourses of sustainability in the Galápagos
  • Development and impoverishment in migrant communities of Guayaquil
  • Social communication, micropolitics, and activism in the Andes
  • Political perspectives on endangered languages: the Sapara case
  • Bilingual intercultural education in Otavalo

Browse this program’s independent study projects / undergraduate research.

Homestays

Quito

You will stay for seven weeks with a middle-class family in an urban neighborhood and enjoy Quito’s vibrant cultural life. Founded by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century atop an existing indigenous settlement, Quito’s architecture today is a mix of colonial and contemporary. You will find churches, typical and nouveau gourmet Ecuadorean restaurants, and hip cafés. Host families often take students to concerts, museums, movies, and other sites.

Intag Cloud Forest

You will also stay for four to five days in rural communities in the Intag Cloud Forest. This provides a very different perspective on Ecuador and is an opportunity to implement fieldwork methodology prior to your Independent Study Project.

Other Accommodations

Hostels, guest houses, and small hotels

Career Paths

Positions held by recent alumni of this program include:

  • Environmental and Human Rights Campaigner at Amazon Watch, Oakland, CA

  • Policy Associate at OneAmerica, Seattle, WA

  • Fulbright Scholar at Universidad Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico

  • Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC

  • Program Associate for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, New York, NY

  • Fulbright Fellow researching AfroEcuadorian collective rights, Ecuador

Faculty & Staff

Ecuador: Development, Politics, and Languages

Fabian Espinosa, MA
Academic Director
Sofía Tobar, MA
Program Assistant

Discover the Possibilities

  • COST & SCHOLARSHIPS

    SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students.

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  • ACCESSIBILITY

    Prepare for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Aborad! In-country conditions and resources vary by site. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact disabilityservices@sit.edu for more information.

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  • El Manglar Desaparecido

    For her ISP, alumna Elizabeth Hasier produced a video on the environmental and social impacts of the shrimp industry in southwestern Ecuador.

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  • On SITe: Climate Change in Ecuador

    Hear a discussion on climate change in Ecuador with Academic Director Fabian Espinosa.

    Podcast