For Joey Recupero '17, one’s undergraduate years are not to be wasted. As early as the summer after his freshman year Joey participated in an anthropology fieldschool called “Environmental Anthropology in Costa Rica,” run by anthropologist Peter Brosius from University of Georgia. There, he studied community conservation and conducted ethnographic fieldwork on the culture of surfing. “Surfing really brought home the power of nature,” Recupero reminisced, “and the fact that we are not above it, do not have control over it, and how we need to have more respect for it.” He added that the experience complemented his anthropological education here at Gettysburg College in wonderful ways.
At Gettysburg he has deepened his knowledge of overlapping subjects such as environmental issues and indigenous peoples, which enabled him to link coursework with on-the-ground experience in order to gain a more sophisticated understanding of these subjects. At the same time, the Costa Rica fieldschool exposed him to a new area of anthropology that he has not studied here at Gettysburg—the anthropology of sports. This, he pointed out, is a great benefit to studying off campus.
Not surprisingly, the Costa Rica research trip sparked in Joey an interest to go yet further afield. His choice? Mongolia. In fall 2015, Joey participated in an SIT Study Abroad Program entitled “Geopolitics and the Environment,” based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. This program enabled Joey to fulfill his dream to travel to a place that he “hardly knew of,” and that “was not fully incorporated into the global capitalist system.” It also provided seminars, fieldtrips, experiential learning, and home-stays that supported both his anthropology and political science majors.
One particular experience was noteworthy: during his time in Mongolia, Joey conducted a research project funded by the Gettysburg anthropology department on the development of the indigenous tourist industry. He wanted to examine how tourism is changing indigenous people’s perceptions of cultural authenticity. To conduct this research, Joey travelled to a reindeer herding community in northern Mongolia and to a community of eagle hunters in western Mongolia, near the border with Kazhakstan. The trip to the Tsaatan people’s reindeer-herding village was particularly arduous.
To get there, Joey travelled fifteen hours by car to the district center, another ten hours to the nearest roadside settlement, then two days by horse through the taiga. He travelled the latter stint on a wooden saddle in negative-twenty-four-degree weather. Happily, he enjoyed a rich experience that included participating in a shamanic ritual, learning to ride a reindeer, and whiling away the hours playing Tsaatan card games with new friends. The paper he wrote, entitled “The Price on our Practices: Motivation and cultural commodification in the Mongolian tourism industry,” will be presented at Celebration and available on The Cupola, the college’s open-access scholarship hub. Joey had the opportunity to travel to Beijing, China and visit six Russian cities on the trans siberian railway before and after his study abroad in Mongolia.
Joey continues to do great work at the college, pursuing research on a variety of social justice issues linked to coursework in anthropology. For his ANTH 304: The Anthropology of Violence and Conflict class with Professor Amy Evrard, he wrote a paper entitled, “The Semantics of Repression: Understanding the Continued Brutality towards LGBTQA Individuals in the Russian Federation.” For this paper he critically analyzed the speeches of Vladimir Putin to probe the question of why LGBTQA individuals continue to suffer human rights abuses in Russia. The paper is available on The Cupola. For his ANTH 324: Field Methods in Cultural Anthropology class with Professor Donna Perry, he wrote a paper entitled, “The Lost Semester: An Organizational and Anthropological Study of the Diversity Peer Educators.
”For this paper he employed ethnographic field methods to study the Gettysburg student group dedicated to facilitating conversations among the student body about diversity. His aim was to understand whether the restructuring of the group that year, which involved the devolution of power to students, and less involvement of staff, was a positive step towards the group’s goal of building a more inclusive campus community.
As Joey heads into his senior year, he will remain an enthusiastic member of his fraternity, Sigma Chi, for which he is Diversity Chair (last year he served as Recruitment Chair). He will also be inducted into Lambda Alpha, the national honor society, in April 2016. He is also an Admissions tour guide and ambassador. Next year he plans to spend the year working on an anthropology honors thesis as a step towards his next big goal: graduate school in political anthropology, a merger of his two Gettysburg College majors, political science and anthropology.