Summer Course in Puerto Rico

In the summer of 2019, Professor Torres of the Anthropology Department will be teaching a class in Puerto Rico. The course is titled “Disaster and Reconstruction: A Field Course in Post-Hurricane Maria Reconstruction and Gender in Puerto Rico.” While the dates have not been finalized, the class is expected to run from May 29 to June 14.

The intended focus of students in Torres’ program is humanity. She will ask her students to collect narratives in order “to understand the work of social reconstruction and gender-based violence as it is expressed by artists, activists, community members, policy makers, and researchers.” The course takes a look at natural disasters—like Hurricane Maria, a Category-1 cyclone in 2017—and how resilience is a force of managing tragedy. Yet it also examines the prolonging of disaster in cultural pretexts, including gender roles.

Some of the main activities in Torres’ class will be to visit sites and conduct research. This practice is like sociology in that “interviews, surveys and social service inventories will be analyzed” to trace “how societies, not just individuals, reframe core values in the face of hardship, scarcity and loss.” Anthropology comes into effect as students examine “literature and art—modern, classic, western, and that originating in the global south” and how that resonates with the humanistic and gendered nature of Puerto Ricans.

The course is partially inspired by Torres’ recent discussion at SAR on Oct. 18 with Kersti A. Yllö, professor emerita of sociology at Wheaton College. They led a panel on domestic violence—specifically about rape in marriage—and what that means in a global context of humanity. “The interdisciplinary approach of the SAR seminar includes psychological and public health approaches[…] rather than a strictly Western humanitarian approach,” and this attitude will be reinstated for Torres’ class next summer.

The word is spreading on campus about this course and many have shown interest. “[T]o interview the Puerto Rican people about their lives and the way the hurricane changed their lives; and how they live now. It seems like such an important project because they were left on their own, a travesty. And it’s historical,” said Professor Conway of the English Department. “I just encouraged all my classes to consider it for a summer course because it seems like so much more than a course: it will be life-changing.”

If you would like to know more about this study program, contact Torres at her email: Furthermore, this class also can be taken to fulfill the social science requirement at Wheaton.