undergraduate fieldwork? Maybe . . .

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Thu, 23 Feb 1995 21:15:00 CST

John McCreery asks if undergrads can do fieldwork in the "classic"
sense: going to an alen culture, learning the language, partici-
pating in everyday life while observing, etc.

The short answer is yes. My experience is with a longterm project
set up by Evon Vogt (Harvard) for several summers in Chiapas, Mexico.
Each undergrad was there for at least a couple of months; they were
doing individual projects under Vogtie's overall direction. But
Chiapas, back then, was a perfect place to do it: Chicago, Harvard,
and Stanford (to a lesser extent) anthro departments had projects
going in the area, with literally dozens of grad students doing full
dissertation research. He had already worked with the undergrads
as they set up their projects before coming into the field, and in
many cases he sent them out to work alongside the already-resident
grad students. (That's how I know about it: although my base was
Chicago, not Harvard, I had one of Vogtie's students drop in for
each of two summers, while I was in my second fieldtrip working on
my own dissertation.)

In a slightly longer answer, however, I'd have to say that the
circumstances have to be pretty special. Harvard and Chicago had
field headquarters in San Cristobal de las Casas, where Don Pancho
and Do~a Gertrudis Blom had an excellent library, museum, and
workshop/meeting rooms. We had a lot of U.S.-type faculty dropping
in, and the projects also supported a series of Mexico-based anthros,
linguists, archaeologists, and students at one time or another. So
in a sense the setup was ideal for a field school, and Vogtie was an
ideal guy to run one. It worked, year after year. But I don't know
if a single investigator/teacher or a pair of them would have been
able to pull it off. The field school was piggy-backed on a whole
bunch of other things going on in the same general area.

-- mike salovesh <salovesh@niu.edu>