Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School
Isla Mujeres, Mexico Summer 2015
Culture & Environment • Latin America & Caribbean
Medical Anthropology • Gender & Identity
History, Space & Meaning
Two 6 Week [43 Day] Sessions
First Session: May 16 - June 28
Second Session: July 4 - August 16
Two 3 Week [22 Day] Sessions
First Session: May 23 - June 14
Second Session: July 11 - August 1
Session Dates can be modified for specific groups
The First Summer Session of the Methods Practicum Course and
The Advanced Methods Course will include a special series on Medical Anthropology, Teen Pregnancy & HIV Prevention
Dr. Cabrera -- see Faculty page -- will guest lecture and lead an HIV outreach effort along with Dr. Pierce
Advanced Ethnographic Methods session students can elect to participate in this special session as part of their independent research projects
Students should indicate if they are interested in this Medical Anthropology Training in their application
Video from the 2014 Field School sessions: http://youtu.be/LBLMRugrDiA
Gaining experience in the field is vital to a student of Anthropology. Being trained in Ethnographic Field Methods and having the opportunity to put that training into practice is an important step in becoming a well-rounded Anthropologist.
Each of the Three and Six Week Field School Sessions will be structured to maximize the student’s training and field experiences, as well as opportunities to enjoy the natural and man-made wonders of Isla Mujeres. Each week students will experience Field Work with their Local Expert Mentors, along with Excursions, such swimming in the open Caribbean ocean Whale Sharks, touring the Isla Mujeres Tortugranja Turtle Preserve, diving or snorkeling at the Cancun Subaquatic Museum, or visiting the Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá and much more.
The Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School Provides
Practical experience in Ethnographic Methods, Research Design, analysis and ethics through formal training and field research
Engagement in Cross Cultural Processes to gain an on-the-ground perspective of everyday life through internships with local native mentors, families and cultural activities
Study in the complex social and political contexts of the relationship between Culture and Environment in an amazing location that thrives on eco-tourism and environmental protection
PADI Open Water Dive Certification and Spanish Language Boot Camp*
Informed Career Counseling and Direction by experts to further your career in the competitive professional and academic field of Anthropology
Each Student Will
* Applies to the Advanced Methods Students Only
Playa Norte -- Isla Mujeres -- Quintana Roo, Mexico
Summer 2013 IFS Student Ethnographer Alumnus Testimonial
'The Isla Mujeres Ethnographic field school is an amazing opportunity to learn principles of anthropology and ethnographic methods in a real-world setting. Both in the classroom, and in the process of actively and passively adjusting to a new culture, you will be in a state of constant learning - both about the world, and about yourself - while on Isla.
I most enjoyed the highly discussion-based nature of the class meetings. The readings and lectures are an excellent resource for students at all stages in their anthropology education—providing a thorough overview of the main historical thinkers who shaped the discipline, while also focusing on the current state of anthropology in the contemporary world.
The freedom to design and address your own research question is hugely empowering as a student. While there is by no means a shortage of options to consider when selecting a field school, the Isla Mujeres Ethnographic field school is unique for the way in which you will be afforded the opportunity to live out dreams which many people save for their bucket list. In my time as a student on Isla, I learned to scuba dive. I swam with whale sharks. I learned enough Spanish to hold conversations with locals. I zip-lined over jungle canopies. I rafted through underground river systems. I explored thousand-year-old Mayan ruins. And I did all this in a way which was relevant to my research, deepened my appreciation for Mexican culture, and furthered my development as an anthropologist.
Isla Mujeres is undeniably safe, and the residents of the island are overwhelmingly warm, friendly, and accommodating. Everybody has a story, and everybody wants to learn yours. Even in your short time on the island, you will make incredible friendships, both with the people of Isla, and with tourists visiting from all over the world.
My experience with the Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School was highly positive. If you are an undergraduate student just beginning your exposure to anthropology as a discipline, the opportunities to learn new things years ahead of your peers back home are numerous. Likewise, if you are further along in your studies, the benefit of the opportunity to design your own research project cannot be overstated.
When your time on Isla comes to an end, and you are boarding your flight back home, you might find yourself unable to shake the feeling that you’ve forgotten something back in your room at Poc Na. It may take you weeks or even months after leaving, but eventually you will realize—you left behind part of yourself on that tiny Island off the Yucatan Peninsula. That piece of you may be large or it may be small, but in any case it will call out to you as loudly as it can for the rest of your life, beckoning you back. My time on Isla was too short, but the memories and friendships I made are very strong. I know I’ll be back someday, and hopefully I’ll see you there too. Look for me at Fenix. I’ll be standing in the shallows, talking with old friends and sipping a habanero mojito.'
IFS Advanced Methods Student Intern Swimming with Whale Sharks -- Tiburon Ballenas
Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School General Overview
Isla Mujeres is a very small island in the Caribbean, located about 8 miles off of the coast of Cancun. Spanning about 5 miles long and a half mile wide at its widest point, Isla Mujeres is a Mexican Caribbean treasure. Here you will find the remains of an ancient Mayan temple to the Goddess Ixchel, and although Spanish is the official language, many of the locals still speak Mayan fluently. The economy of the Isla Mujeres (simply referred to as 'Isla' by those who live there) is driven by tourism, followed by fishing and the Mexican Naval Base on the island. Located 1.5 hours from the Coba Ruins, 2 hours from the Tulum Ruins, and 2.5 hours from Chichén Itzá, Isla has a rich Mayan tradition spanning several thousand years, intersecting interestingly with a history of Pirates. The tranquil flow of modern island life on the island, however, is something to experience and truly enjoy.
Ethnography is all about being there and learning the most important aspects of how anthropological research is conducted. Because Isla Mujeres is a Caribbean tourist town that thrives on Eco-Tourism, the Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School will focus much of the training on those subjects. For instance, thousands of people come to Isla each year to scuba dive the reefs or to swim with protected Whale Sharks. These two activities are intertwined with the subjects of eco-tourism, sustainable tourism, local economies and environmental protection. Therefore, some students of the Field School might want to focus their internships and independent research projects on those subjects.
IFS Advanced Methods Student Excursion at Ek Balam Ruins -- Valladolid, Mexico
Ethnographic Field School is hard work and students will be busy most of the day conducting field research or in lectures. But the Field School is on Isla Mujeres, so it will be a lot of fun as well. Each student will be paired up with a Local Expert Mentor that they will intern for. This is your Participant Observation role while at the Field School. If you wish to learn about Eco-Tourism and, for example, Whale Sharks -- then you will be teamed up with a boat crew that conducts Whale Shark Tours in order to learn about their lives, as well as environmental aspects of that business on the ground (or in this example, out to sea). The Ethnographic Methods training will be contextualized within theoretical foundations, but will be grounded theoretically as well. Students will be trained in qualitative and quantitative research techniques that are utilized in formal and informal ways during the ethnographic research process.
Spanish Language Boot Camp is required participation for three days during the first week of the Advanced Field School Sessions. The instructor will gauge your knowledge of Spanish and group you with students of similar knowledge and level of expertise so that, even if you are familiar with the language, you will receive the proper language familiarization. Although some people who live on the island do speak English, you will find that most do not. Please note your level of Spanish fluency in your Application.
IFS Lecturer and Mexican Marine Archaeologist Ana Celis guided students on a Shipwreck Dive following a lecture on the principles of Marine Archaeolgy, Human Ecology and Cultural impacts on the Environment
Video of this dive that was shot and edited by IFS 2013 Student Matt Uber
PADI Certification Dive School is included in the tuition fees for the Advanced Session and will be a key element of training for students. This will underscore your understanding of the complex relationship between the environment and culture, especially in regard to sustainable tourism and local political economies. Students may select the appropriate level of dive training if they are beyond beginner -- up to and including Assistant Instructor PADI Certification. Documents supporting levels above beginner will be needed for registration in advanced courses -- please indicate your level of PADI Certification in your Application.
If a student wishes to not participate in the PADI certification or other water-based activities, please let us know and we will modify your course of study.
Field Assistant Positions are available to first summer session attendees that want to stay on for the second session of 2014. Students who become Field Assistants can continue their first session research projects (doubling your fieldwork experience), help second session students on their projects, and assist on lectures and Adventure Excursions. Only students who complete the first Field School Session may apply to become a Field Assistant. Please see the Tuition section for fee details and indicate within your Application that you would like to be a Field School Assistant for the second session.
IFS 2013 Summer Session Alumni Enjoying Student Boating -- Conservation Excursion
Student Lodging Option and Dr. Pierce's IFS 'Classroom' -- PocNa Hostel, Isla Mujeres
Centro Isla Mujeres, Mexico at Night