Hello everyone. Everything here in Peru is winding down. I am done with classes and currently in the middle of finals week. In this exciting new update to my blog I will discuss the various courses that I have taken here in Peru to give you all a better idea of what to expect should you decide to Study Abroad here in Lima. I will dedicate on post to each class in order to provide you all with a through analysis of each course. In this particular issue, I will discuss Andean Ethnography (Etnografia Andina) with professor J. Ossio.
First off, I will begin by discussing the professor. He is, at least in the world of Peruvian social anthropology, quite the important figure. He received his Ph.D. from Oxford University and has taught as a visiting professor at prestigious universities all over the world. He served as Peru's first Minister of Culture and was a political advisor to two past Peruvian presidents. He worked as a member of an important investigative committee that looked into the killing of 8 journalists by Andean natives during Peru's internal conflict with the Shining Path rebels. His work focuses mainly on the Andean region of Peru and he is extremely knowledgeable about the subject. He is, without a doubt, the most accomplished professor that I have ever had. That being said, I found him a somewhat prickly character. You see, he is very much aware of the fact that he is probably the most important individual in any room at any given moment and is not at all afraid to remind you of it. Furthermore he will not shy away from telling you how fortunate you are to be studying under an individual such as himself (which, in all honesty, is probably true). Furthermore, he will not shy away from criticizing you in front of the entire class if he thinks that your work is subpar. In particular, he seemed to harbor a particular animosity towards Japanese students, whom he berated for their lack of Spanish skills and criticized their countrymen for generally having problems with Spanish (which would make sense seeing how different Japanese and Spanish are). Though he is an incredibly intelligent individual, I was not particularly fond of him or his teaching style.
(Spanish and Japanese)
As for the course it was fairly simple in structure. We attended two lectures a week and our grade consisted of a midterm, a final exam, and a final project. He recommended that we read two books for the course, Yawar Fiesta, a historical fiction over a conflict between local indigenous peoples and the Peruvian government about a traditional festival, and Las Paradojas del Peru Oficial, a book which he himself authored about the duality of Peruvian society. Though I cannot say that I read more that the first to pages of Yawar Fiesta (I did, however, dutifully watch the movie and read the Wikipedia page), it seemed a rather interesting story that illustrated some of the internal conflicts within the nation. I did read the other book and found it essential to my understanding of the dynamics of Peruvian society.
As for the classes themselves they were fairly uneventful. They largely consisted of the professor standing at the front of the room and with a PowerPoint and taking to the class about some facts of Andean society or history (as well as educating us about his own numerous accomplishments in the world of Andean anthropology). Overall the classes were somewhat dry. The tests were quite hard and often featured questions over topics that were only briefly mentioned in class but appeared in one of the many online articles that he posted throughout the semester or one of the books.
Overall, unless you really are fascinated by the Andes and its population, or are a huge personal fan of Professor Ossio, I would not really recommend taking this course. Though highly informative, it was one of the more difficult classes that I have taken here, and I also did not find it particularly enjoyable.