Inspiration for Eve Gutman’s anthropology thesis struck during her semester abroad in Valparaíso, Chile. After overhearing two of her classmates comparing local neighborhoods and referring to some as “the real Valparaíso ” and others as “fake,” she was drawn to find out why.
“The questions that they inspired me to ask about what and who counts as ‘real’ simmered for a few months until I saw an opportunity to explore them academically,” says Gutman.
She began her ethnographic fieldwork during her last months in Chile, and returned to finish her research during two weeks in January thanks to a grant from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship. Back at Haverford, with the advising help of Associate Professor Jesse Weaver Shipley and Visiting Assistant Professor Zainab Saleh, she turned all of that research into “‘Cerros Falsos’: Remembering and Dreaming of One’s Place in Valparaíso, Chile,” an exploration of how the city’s residents respond to tourism and the urban changes that it triggers.
What is your biggest takeaway from the project?
I learned a great deal [in] both the process and the content of my thesis. Firstly, I took the ethnographic research skills I had begun to develop in Joshua Moses’s “Ethnographic Methods” course and ran with them. I learned a great deal about interviewing by practicing it. This, in turn, allowed me to learn intimately about people’s lives and take with me a profound gratitude for the people who contributed to my work. Secondly, I came to clarity about various concepts behind my research questions that I had grappled with throughout the process. For example, I cam to better understand how people come to feel like they belong to a place, like a neighborhood, and how they become invested in who’s moving into that place of theirs.
Did your thesis have anything to do with helping to guide your future career path?
I plan to move to Valparaíso in about half a year, so, yes, my thesis had a lot to do with guiding my path! As I worked on my thesis, I came to realize that not only is the project intellectually exciting for me, but it also informs personal decisions I will be making in the near future. My thesis explores residents’ perspectives on the interaction of tourism and gentrification in Valparaíso. It has illuminated that people like me are changing the city in complex and complicated ways, and that there are various possibilities for how people who move to the city can do so in ways that respect residents and the city that they want to live in. Working through this project has been one part of my process of understanding what I want my place in the city to be when I move there.
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.