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Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences
One Discipline, Four Fields

Anthropology of Food » Summer 2011: Ethnographic Food Studies Field School in Belize

This program, sponsored by the Indiana University Department of Anthropology, is designed to meet the increasing demand for training in field methods in the study of food systems. The program will train students in anthropological field methods, introduce them to the ethnography of modern Belize and acquaint them with an intricate rural-urban food chain in the Stann Creek and Toledo districts of southern Belize.

The field school offers training in the rapidly developing interdisciplinary field of Food Studies, as well as a valuable experience of the rich cultural diversity of southern Belize, incorporating elements of both Latin American and the Caribbean. The training will also be relevant to understanding economic development and the environmental and social consequences of tourism.

Research will focus on the linkages between rural Mayan farmers and the burgeoning tourist industry in the nearby Placencia peninsula. The goal of the project is to build a map of the food system which feeds tourists, and find ways to get more locally produced food onto the plates of tourist visitors. This means understanding what kinds of food is being grown and gathered by Mayan farmers, and then working with chefs and resort owners to find ways to adapt local ingredients to foreign tastes. We want to know what economic and cultural barriers are keeping farmers out of a nearby and lucrative market.

Dates: June 11, 2011 to July 29, 2011 (7 weeks)
Location: Southern Stann Creek District, Belize

Program Organization:

  • 8-10 students
  • 1 pre-departure orientation in Bloomington or by phone
  • 7 day orientation in Maya Centre, Stann Creek District, Belize
  • 3 weeks living with host families in 4 Maya/ Kekchi villages in
    south Stann Creek District, Belize
  • 3 weeks in Placencia Village, Stann Creek District, Belize
  • Resident faculty: Richard Wilk, Professor of Anthropology
  • Program director: Lyra Spang, PhD candidate, Department of Anthropology


6 credit hours in E621 and A400/600 taught by Dr. Richard Wilk of IU

E621 is an anthropology/food studies course that may count towards the food studies undergraduate minor or graduate concentration (3 credits)

A400/600 is a seminar on Belizean History, Culture and Geography (3 credits)

Program Details:

  • Maya/Kekchi village of Maya Centre in Stann Creek District, Belize, will be the orientation site for the first 7 days. Students will have formal lectures and instruction, group activities and field trips, designed to provide an introduction to local culture & project goals.
  • Each student will spend three weeks in a Mayan village living with a host family. Four villages will host students. Students will work with their host families to learn about food production and gathering, observe and record food processing and participate in preparing and serving meals.
  • The following three weeks be spent in the tourist community of Placencia where students will learn about the restaurant industry and local food vending by working in kitchens and restaurants, and interviewing and interacting with tourists.

Program Eligibility:

You may apply if you:

  • Are a graduate student in an accredited MA or PhD Anthropology program or a senior year anthropology undergraduate.
  • Are a student from an IU campus or other accredited institutions.
  • Submit two letters of recommendation from advisors or teachers including evidence of cultural adaptability.
  • Are able to engage in sustained physical activity in a hot tropical climate, living under very basic conditions with little personal privacy.
  • Have a minimum cumulative 3.0 GPA and no academic or disciplinary probation.

Visit to apply.

Program Housing

  • Students will spend their first week of orientation in shared rooms in a hostel in Maya Centre in Stann Creek District.
  • For the first 3 weeks, students will live with host families in the villages of Maya Mopan, Santa Rosa, Red Bank, San Roman. No access to flush toilets, showers, internet or other amenities.
  • For the last 3 weeks, students will live in shared  houses near Placencia with bus or bicycle access to resorts and restaurants.

Contact Information

Program Director: Lyra Spang
E-mail: lspang at

Faculty Director: Richard Wilk
E-mail: wilkr at

Website: (search for Belize)

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Most types of Indiana University financial aid  (scholarships, grants and loans) may be applied to Indiana University programs. It is recommended you verify transferability of financial aid with your home campus financial aid office.