Interethnic Relations in the Parks, Plazas and Pefia Bars of Otavalo, Ecuador
Eldridge, Amanda L.
Sociologists and anthropologists debate about the correct methods for conducting ethnographic research and the possibility of researcher bias. I realized that during my project/stay in Otavalo, I was being a true participant observer. I participated in the life of Otavalo, living my daily life, while observing the life of Otavalo. During my second stay in Ecuador, I was a sociology/anthropology student conducting research in Otavalo, but I was also a young single white female from the United States living in Otavalo. I had to make decisions not only about my research but also about my daily Jife. I lived my life for three months in Otavalo -- eating, buying groceries and other items, hanging out, dating, sleeping and studying -- doing all the things I do in the States. While my daily life was guided by my research, my research was also guided by my daily life, something I did not realize until the end of my project/stay. I would observe, for example, during the afternoon in the park in order to conduct research, but sometimes I would decide to observe in the Parque Bolivar because it fit into my daily life and my personal preferences. Or, on the other side, if I was to meet someone in the Parque Bolivar for personal reasons, I would use that time to conduct research. In many ways, I Jived the life of a tourist from North America or Europe in Otavalo. I went to the Plaza de Ponchos to buy artesanfas rather than the Plaza Copacabana to buy mestizo/ white clothing. I went to the pena bar to hear folkloric music rather than the discotheque to hear music from North America and Europe. I hung out in the Parque Bolivar because it was more convenient rather than the Parque Gonzalez Suarez which was more convenient for many indigenous and mestizo people. I ate in restaurants aimed at tourists because of my preferred diet rather than other restaurants aimed at Ecuadorians with Ecuadorian foods. When I realized what I was doing, my first thought was that I had ruined my Senior Individualized Project because of questionable methods and possibly insufficient data. I then realized that, in a sense, I had partially proven my hypothesis. I made decisions as to where I went and what I did based on personal preferences that were guided by my cultural identity, personality and desired ethnic group. Although I knew that I was a woman from the United States in Otavalo, I wanted to live the life of an Ecuadorian and guided my actions to achieve this. When I was not conducting research, I wanted to be with my mestizo and white Ecuadorian friends, unless the Kalamazoo students were in town. Also, I chose the places to where I went knowing my mestizo and white Ecuadorian friends would be there. When I was conducting research and I wanted to observe a particular group, I went to a particular place knowing basically what group would be there based on its description and location. I was able to make realizations about the way I was living my life and, therefore, the way the people of Otavalo were living their lives, because I was in an unfamiliar setting and I had to make decisions based on my background experience and the situation presented to me.
vii, 144 p.
Kalamazoo, Mich. : Kalamazoo College.
U.S. copyright laws protect this material. Commercial use or distribution of this material is not permitted without prior written permission of the copyright holder. All rights reserved.