"Going Native"

Posted: October 7, 2013

This past week has taught our group a bunch of lessons. First, in our environmental policy class we learned about an old school of thought in the field of anthropology. It holds that an ethnographer is considered good if she can remain objective throughout her study and avoid “going native” so as to get the cleanest, most objective analysis possible.

We then spent the next few days in the nearby community of Solarte. We visited the local children after school; playing soccer (Team Gringas won soccer 3-1), volleyball, and duck-duck-goose. The Simone family welcomed us into their home, where we helped them prepare tamales (to be sold), as well as collected firewood and harvested palm leaves. Edil and Laurence showed us how to use a machete. We paddled in Gil’s canoe. Remi offered to teach us how to fish. We learned little Monica’s favorite song lyrics. They invited us into their celebrations.

This past week has shown me that if we want to learn anything, we, in fact, can’t be objective. We must give up that old school of thought for a new life of action. The experience is so much richer, so much truer if we taste what they taste, if we hear what they hear, if we feel what they feel.

Hopefully with two months left, we can push past our scholarly boundaries and become even more involved in Solarte life. Perhaps the most important lesson this past week has taught us is that if you haven’t gone at least a little native, you haven’t really been anywhere yet.