As our society debates pressing issues such as sustainability and cultural preservation, conversations with Indigenous groups may generate novel perspectives and solutions.
A Georgia State student and an alumna are getting the opportunity to spend this summer in Costa Rica studying in Boruca Indigenous Territory, home to a Brunka community, with a National Geographic Funded Project.
The project is supported by National Geographic, in collaboration with Georgia State University and El Centro Interamericano Para La Salud Global (CISG), a Costa Rican global health nonprofit dedicated to developing innovative strategies for future global leaders. Steven Black, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, anthropology M.A. student Cassandra Eng and Yanet Fundora (M.A. ’21) are among the Georgia State researchers involved in this project.
After initial consultations with Brunka leaders, the team will work closely with Brunka community members for two months to learn their stories and share them with the rest of the world.
Black said they plan to focus especially on Brunka stories that articulate their sustainable use of the forest, in areas such as mask-making, culinary and weaving traditions.
The team will also work with a Brunka youth group to document the crucial role of tradition in contemporary Indigenous life using photo-voice diaries.
“It is almost unheard of for international ethnographic research to be funded at the undergraduate or MA-level,” Black said. This project provides a unique opportunity for Georgia State anthropology students to gain invaluable research training, while also benefiting from the experience of being immersed in a different culture for two months.
“We hope the project will also contribute to Boruca, both through the conversations it generates about Indigenous traditions among youth and elders and also through a collection of short videos about the community that may be used in the local school, the Boruca museum, and online as a way to generate interest in eco-tourism.”
Eng and Fundora will travel back in August when the team will analyze their initial findings and create the video collections.
One of the goals of the project is to use photos and videos to create audio-visual materials that will help the community in education and eco-tourism. The team plans to return to Costa Rica in May 2022 to share results with the community and finish the project.