Unsettling Colonial Relations in Experiential Education: Maya Ixil Perspectives on Decolonizing International Service Learning
Heidebrecht, Luke James
MetadataShow full item record
International Service Learning (ISL) is a relatively young field of education research. Designed to be short-term experiential education programs, the traditional ISL curriculum harnesses direct interaction and cross- or inter-cultural exchanges between the Global North and Global South to provide opportunities for reflection and learning to occur. The field has focused on the impact of such programs for the Global North participants, primarily students, who participate. The existing literature highlights the benefits of this engaged form of learning citing academic, political, and moral growth. There are few studies that are critical of this approach to experiential education and fewer still that examine the impact of ISL on Global South host communities that receive these visitors. It is also the case that in the last decades the growth of ethical tourism has impacted educational programs such as ISL and, for host communities, the perceivable differences and impact are negligible. This study focuses on the community experience of ISL, narrowing the focus of the inquiry on one community in Guatemala that is home of the Maya Ixil people. The research design incorporates a theoretical framework that seeks to confront the colonial history that is deeply embedded in the practice of ISL and provide a lens through which to examine the transnational encounters that take place between people as Global North participants cross borders and bring with them historical and political identities in their visiting of Indigenous communities. For this reason this study also incorporates values and ideas from an Indigenous approach to research that emerged as the research team built relationships with the Ixil community. Over the course of four years several data gathering trips were made to the city of Nebaj, Guatemala where interviews and focus groups informed the bulk of the data. An important validation and feedback event that was called the Encuentro (gathering), took place in August 2017 and is a centerpiece of the research design and of this study. Recommendations were formed during this event, meant to be shared with host communities across Guatemala and Central America. The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of ISL on the Maya Ixil and tell the story of research that revealed the importance of identifying the colonial relations that have upheld both research practices in the Global South as well as the practice of ISL. The findings reveal that the impact of ISL on the Ixil community is misunderstood by Global North advocates and stakeholders. The necessity of unsettling colonial relations is recommended as an important step forward for the practice of ISL that seeks to facilitate experiential education in a good way.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeMurphy, Shaun; McVittie, Janet; Kalyn, Brenda
Copyright DateOctober 2021
international service learning