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Anthropology Students Learn About Columbus' Latino Communities

September 4, 2014

Anthropology Students Learn About Columbus' Latino Communities

This summer, nine students had the opportunity to participate in the Department of Anthropology’s “Ethnoscapes Columbus” project, working in Columbus' Latino communities to learn about the communities' cultural and economic practices. The project was organized and facilitated by Anthropology Professor Jeffrey Cohen.

“It’s important to ask residents in the Latino community questions about their concerns, their economic situation and how they view the positive qualities of their neighborhoods," said Sarah Gray, one of the student participants. “We need to let the wider community know what is happening.”

Cohen recruited students for Ethnoscapes through his classes and the Undergraduate Anthropology Club, and then he split them into two teams: one team covered the area of North Hilltop and the other covered South Hilltop. Cohen did not accompany the students on their research.

“I really wanted them to learn how to problem-solve on their own and work as a team,” explained Cohen.

Back (L to R): Brett Morris, Meagan Jones, Vincent Hickman, Bret Roberts, Amy Brown
Front (L to R): Katie Morales, Sarah GrayProf. Cohen

The students used a GPS to find local businesses and cultural centers and then recorded the data for further analysis. In order to gather information about living conditions and demographics, the students created a short questionnaire and interviewed residents. Many of the residents were uncomfortable with interviewing but those who wanted their story told helped give insight into the true condition of the community.

Cohen and the students are compiling the data they collected for the Ohio Commission for Hispanic and Latino Affairs (OCHLA). They hope that in partnering with OCHLA, they can bring awareness to the state of the Latino communities in Columbus and help draft policy to improve the conditions. Today, there is serious racial tension and segregation in the communities, but there are hopes that by completing this project, the misconceptions of the communities will decrease.

“This project broadened the students’ horizons and increased their interests in the use of anthropology outside of the classroom,” said Cohen. “Ethnoscapes allowed them to gain new experiences including the opportunity to engage in collaborative fieldwork.”

Cohen kept the students very involved in the project and let them share their ideas with him.

“He took our input; we were allowed to shape the project and make it better,” said Bret Roberts, another student involved in the project. “

"We want “Ethnoscapes” to have true value to the city of Columbus,” said Cohen. “We are preparing to submit our study to the Ohio Hispanic Commission and moving forward, we want to extend the project and work more closely with colleagues in the Spanish department to better address the language barriers in the Hilltop area.”

This is the first year for the “Ethnoscapes Columbus” project and Cohen is optimistic about its future. He plans to develop “Ethnoscapes” into a university Service-Learning Course in anthropology.

By Molly Kime, student, ASC Communications