Chelsea Escalante

As the quarter wraps up, it is remarkable to look back and see the ways in which all of the individual projects have developed in a relatively short period of time. For me personally, in just a couple of weeks, I will begin my first interviews with former volunteers and will be simultaneously packing for my trip to Ecuador to record oral histories of community members that have lived near and have been affected by my community partner.

What am I expecting? From my previous travels to Latin America, one thing I’ve learned to expect is that everything takes much longer than you originally anticipate. No one is in a hurry and schedules don’t really hold the same value that they do elsewhere, so I must expect to be flexible with my time tables. Because I will be recording these conversations, I will also expect some technical difficulties because no matter how many times you check the recorder beforehand, something seems to always go wrong right when you need it to function! I expect to be able to find enough participants because of my previous contacts in the community (and am hoping that this is not a faulty assumption!), but as people have pointed out in the seminar, perhaps my original number of 20 participants may be too ambitious and so I am open to cutting the number if needed. Many people in the community that I am working with are very open, and so I don’t anticipate difficulty in getting people to share their experiences, but I do worry that they may paint a very rosy picture of the effects of volunteerism and leave out perhaps some areas of criticism or potential improvement.

What am I bringing with me? This seminar has really given me a broader perspective of what it means to be a humanist. Even though I am technically in a humanities department (Spanish), I study mostly quantitative linguistics and so my research has always been about data collection and macro-implications. I have had very little training in humanistic research methodologies before this course, but am excited to be implementing one such methodology – oral histories—in this project. I also think that being able to dissect the recordings and arrange them into a multimedia format such as an edited video will allow a broader public to be able to engage with the research. This is a format that I would have never thought of before this course. Lastly, I found the theoretical base of public humanities that we focused on at the beginning of the quarter to be extremely applicable to my project, especially the idea of the pseudo-environments. Because the volunteers and local Ecuadorians are participating in an exchange of pseudo-environments as they interact with each other—each group perhaps noticing, valuing, or rejecting the “realities” of the other group – this framework will be helpful to me as I continue to engage with these two groups in the future.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the seminar, from our leaders to our guest speakers to the other scholars. I have learned so much from getting to hear about the projects and wish you all the best this summer!