Now as the director of a study abroad program, I’m still wrestling with the same kinds of questions I dealt with in my dissertation. I worry about my own culpability and my own responsibility to the people around me. I think about my own Peace Corps service and wonder about what I left behind for people. Did I leave anything of substance or did I just take what I wanted? This time, I’m not the only person whose experience I have to consider; I now have students to guide through these same kinds of unequal encounters and experiences.
Much later, I thought a lot about my own role in people’s stories of violence and how I’d also bought into the romance of supposedly primitive cultures. I thought a lot about how tourism to Maya communities could co-exist with state violence against those same communities, how the state had tried to exterminate the very people that it also wanted to serve as tourist attractions.