Wednesday October 7
Keith Hall Room 130
Abstract: More and more, Americans are traveling abroad as participants in short term mission trips. In communities around the world, people pour cement, teach children English, provide medical care, and prepare meals, seeking to “serve the poor.” Motivated by a desire to help others, to make a difference, and to experience poverty, over a million Americans each year use vacation time and spend money in order to travel and do volunteer work for a week or two with their congregation or other religious organization. Based on several years of ethnographic research with an American congregation working in the Dominican Republic, this presentation explores the ways in which short term mission participants think about poverty and their own role as global citizens, and looks at some of the impact of the kinds of projects that they undertake.
Biography: Laurie Occhipinti is a professor of anthropology at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is the Assistant Dean of the College of Arts, Education, and Sciences. She has been at Clarion since 2003. Her research interests include economic development, faith based organizations, indigenous peoples, volunteerism, and religion in Latin America. She received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and her masters and Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She is the author of several books, including Making a Difference in a Globalized World, which looks at short term missions, and Acting on Faith, which focuses on the role of Catholic NGOs in economic development in indigenous communities in northwestern Argentina.