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Fulbright Scholars Reunite in Bolivia

Fulbright Scholars Reunite in Bolivia

By Miles Doyle

Fulbright Scholar Maggie Hargrave (right) reunited with Elizabeth Penry, Ph.D., her mentor and former professor, in Bolivia last summer.
Photo by Thomas Abercrombie
One afternoon, early in the 2003 fall semester, Maggie Hargrave struck up a conversation with Elizabeth Penry, Ph.D., associate professor of history at Fordham, following Penry’s introductory lecture in a class on Latin American history.

Hargrave, who lived briefly in Boliva as a child when her parents were Maryknoll lay missioners, had heard that Penry spent some time in the country as a Fulbright scholar. They immediately hit it off, bonding over a shared passion for Latin American history.

“Her class immediately grabbed my attention,” Hargrave said. “There are some professors whose love for the subject they teach shows through even in an [introductory] course. [She] was definitely one of them.”

Hargrave, who majored in anthropology and comparative literature, kept in regular touch with Penry throughout her time at Fordham and, when she decided to apply for her own Fulbright scholarship, Penry was there to help her navigate the international study and exchange program’s rigorous application process.

“All of the time that she spent with me as she guided me through the process of dreaming up the questions and parameters of a project proposal was a gift of a class,” Hargrave said. “By sharing her experience and knowledge, she helped me to find a path for my project that was both fascinating and feasible.”

Penry’s advice paid off. Shortly after graduating from Fordham in 2007, Hargrave earned a Fulbright and set off for Sucre, the constitutional capital of Boliva, to research the role the indigenous Quechua women play in the sale of traditional medicines within the country.

Within her first few weeks in the country, however, she realized that her research wasn’t really getting her anywhere—especially after she witnessed firsthand the pervasive tension between indigenous people and their urban counterparts.

“I found that my questions focusing on the dynamics of race and gender were too narrow, said Hargrave. “They didn’t get to the heart of [the] identity politics that indigenous market women face.”

So Hargrave sought out a new approach. She soon found it after a chance encounter with a director of a local children’s education center called Nanta, which works with child and adolescent workers, most of whom are indigenous or peasant families. Hargrave was hooked, gaining, in the process, a fresh perspective on indigenous life in Sucre. 

“It became the best resource that I have for my project,” said Hargrave, who has been splitting her time between the library, Nanta, the marketplace and the countryside.

This past summer, Penry, the director of Fordham’s Latin American and Latino Studies Institute, spent time in Boliva and Peru, conducting research for a book she’s writing about indigenous politics in the Andes. She took the time to catch up with Hargrave in Sucre.

“She’s doing sophisticated ethnographic work,” Penry said of her former student. “She’s just doing great stuff.” 

—Miles Doyle, FCRH ’01, is the associate editor of FORDHAM magazine.

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