Though the term surfing is often used to describe an aquatic recreational activity, a Penn State doctoral student will address some of the lesser-known negative connotations it can have.
Lindsay Usher will present “Riding the Waves of Change: Indigenous Knowledge and Identity of Local Surfers on Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast” from noon to 1 p.m. today in the Foster Auditorium in Paterno Library. She said the lecture would be 45 minutes long, with an extra 15 to 20 minutes for questions.
Usher, a doctoral student in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management, said surf tourism is a growing branch of tourism in areas, such as Guatemala and Nicaragua, attracting foreign business owners and an influx of tourists.
Usher spent several years as a Peace Corps volunteer facilitating in Guatemala, where she first noted how tourism negatively affects indigenous groups. She plans to discuss how Nicaraguan surfers feel about their ocean territory and their identity as local surfers.
In these areas, local indigenous groups are either not involved in tourism or they’re affiliated in a negative manner, Usher said. Noting the importance of the way tourists interact with indigenous groups and vice versa, Usher said she was inspired to start a “unique” line of research based in the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua.
“I want tourism to make their lives better instead of making their lives worse, whether that means being involved in the decision making in the tourism process or helping them figure out how to start their own businesses,” she said. “I think all of that is really important in helping them gain a sense of empowerment in terms of tourism.”
Catherine Grigor, the manager of public relations and marketing of the University Libraries, said she has high hopes for the lecture and recommends that students focus less on technology and more on learning about different cultures.
“The exciting thing about this is that it has such a contemporary connection with surfing,” Grigor said. “And even if you don’t surf, who doesn’t aspire to?”
The lecture is part of a larger initiative called the Penn State University Interinstitutional Consortium for Indigenous Knowledge, which the library has been participating in since 2010. It is aimed at broadening awareness of indigenous knowledge, an emerging area of study.
Audrey Maretzky, the co-director of ICIK, noted the importance of the study and how people can use the knowledge to improve quality of life.
“People have learned how to do a great many things,” she said. “And a lot of our medicine has come through because of our growing understanding of indigenous knowledge. There’s also a growing understanding of climate change. Those are the kinds of things that we can’t necessarily research in our laboratories.”
The ICIK initiative aims to integrate indigenous knowledge in all kinds of classrooms and departments at Penn State. For the first time this year, scholarships were offered to interested and competitive Penn State undergraduate and graduate students, Maretzky said. The initiative aims to recognize how indigenous knowledge is just as valuable as contemporary research-based knowledge.