Fredy Rodriguez-Mejia wins SfAA Tourism and Heritage Student Paper Competition

The Department of Anthropology is pleased to announce that PhD Candidate Fredy Rodriquez-Mejia has won the Society for Applied Anthropology’s Tourism and Heritage Student Paper Competition for his paper titled “Exploring New Paths Toward Indigenous Identity Formation: Heritage Teaching among the Ch’orti’ Maya of Copan, Honduras.”  Co-Authored with Kristin Landau (archaeologist, Ph.D. Candidate, Northwestern University), the paper discusses the collaborative effort (anthropology/archaeology) of the two authors to co-teach an introductory anthropology class at the only indigenous high school in the region of Copan.

The goal of the project (as outlined in the award winning paper) was to teach a majority of indigenous students (n=20), from different villages, about the history of anthropological/archaeological work in the region. Students learned and were part of basic methodology training (e.g. ethnographic interviewing and archaeological excavation). They also participated  in field trips to museums and heritage storage facilities that are typically closed to the public. At the end of the course, students showcased what they had learned about anthropology, archaeology, heritage, and identity at a special event hosted in Copan’s cultural center. The authors also conducted focus groups with members of the villahe where the high school is located to better understand their ideas of archaeology and heritage. The authors made the argument that open, systematic, and sustained communication between teachers, workshop facilitators, workshop attendees, and students, as well as exposure to diverse heritage spaces (e.g. museums, research laboratories, archaeological sites), promotes a deeper understanding of the ideas behind cultural patrimony and indigenous identity.

The Society for Applied Anthropology’s Tourism and Heritage Student Paper Competition recognizes original research on the themes of “tourism” and/or “heritage” broadly defined, including topics such as heritage, archaeology and tourism, ecotourism, and cultural resource management. Top papers are selected for inclusion in an organized paper session at the 2014 SfAA Annual Meetings in Albuquerque, and an award is presented to the best paper in the session. Submissions must be original work of publishable quality.