Contested Meaning : An Exploration of Study Abroad and the Resulting Processes of Negotiation in Oaxaca, Mexico
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Research on U.S. undergraduate study abroad conventionally focuses on the experience from a sending community's perspective, consequently ignoring the complex processes of mediation that occur in host communities. By drawing on theories of borders and third space, this paper explores the impact of and the response to study abroad programs in host communities, thereby re-theorizing the definition of such programs. Along with field observations, The author conducted sixteen interviews with key actors at study abroad sites in Oaxaca, Mexico. Situating Oaxaca within a localized understanding of globalized processes, The author argues that study abroad in Oaxaca derives its meaning through negotiated processes of positionality, interaction, and rationale between and within the self, study abroad participants, communities in Oaxaca, and the globalized world. This Understanding challenges dominant theoretical conceptualizations of study abroad. Re-conceptualizing study abroad to include host community perspectives will require institutions of higher education to critically examine their positionality vis-a-vis the communities to which they send students. Doing so provides institution's the opportunity to correct problematic relational dynamics such as asymmetrical partnerships.