Penn Global Week Local to Global: Examining Indigenous Politics

January 31, 2021
By Penn Abroad

The goals of Dr. Tulia Falleti’s course People of the Land: Indigeneity and Politics in Argentina and Chile are centered in understanding power structures and policy, asking big questions about the imminent challenges of our times, and are grounded in concrete social science research methodologies. In her background, and as a professor of political science and director of the Latin American and Latinx Studies Program, Falleti has always been drawn to interdisciplinary research. This study of indigenous politics reaches to that interdisciplinary focus, examining the rights of Indigenous peoples, plurinationality, global influence on policy, land use, rights to prior consultation, education, and health. In some aspects of this study, students will find that there is great urgency to change policies and consumption patterns as industries put pressure on native lands and forests that are being environmentally degraded in many parts of the world. To gain a greater understanding of the relationship between Indigenous communities and local government in the Americas, students will focus their study and research on the Mapuche people, a community located in both Argentina and Chile as an artificial frontier set in the 19th century that remains in conflict with both governments. Students will interview scholars and activists from the Mapuche community and hear from policy experts virtually under the PGS-COIL model this spring semester.  

Dr. Falleti is seeking to create a space for students to form meaningful connections and have experiences with international communities while drawing attention to the study of indigenous politics, which has been understudied within the field of political science. Falleti’s research and this course are at the forefront of that work, which aims to shed light on the critical issues facing Indigenous and Native people by expanding research, education, and advocacy. According to Falleti, students must begin their comparative study and research of Indigenous communities by looking at their own communities and power structures, which can include bringing up questions about the history of Philadelphia and the land that they occupy while at Penn. She asks, “where are the Lenape people who used to use this land? Why is it that most of them are in Oklahoma nowadays? What happened to them?” These questions surrounding history, power, and privilege begin to prepare students to do in-depth interviews for their research with a concern for ethics. Students will navigate the challenges and ethical considerations of conducting interviews with people who are different from them not only in terms of social class, but also in terms of ethnicity, culture, upbringing, and language, as well as interviewing in situations where there may be unresolved conflicts or questions that may be very difficult. 

Falleti’s ultimate goal is for students to carry their experiences with the Mapuche people and these research skills into future experiences beyond her course. She believes that it is important for students to understand how policy and civic engagement have a real impact on lived experiences and be able to use primary and secondary sources to conduct research towards a better understanding of other cultures that could be “around the block from them or on the other side of the world.”  

Written by Jamie Nisbet, Penn Abroad Marketing and Events Manager
Top image by Eric Sucar, University Communications

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Penn Global Week is an annual event for the university to showcase the depth and breadth of cultural activity and global programming available across campus. This feature is part of a series dedicated to highlighting the global experiences and work of the students and faculty who make Penn global and enrich Penn’s global engagement efforts.   

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