In 2008, PERCS launched "Project PERCS": a sustainable program supporting teams of students, faculty and community leaders in multi-year, interdisciplinary, ethnographic projects. This new research program will promote greater collaboration between the university and local communities, produce substantive research, and enhance student learning. For more information on Project PERCS, click here.
As the first Project PERCS initiative, Dr. Bird Stasz, associate professor in Education, led a team of students in a collaborative ethnographic research project in the township of Cowee in Western North Carolina. Over the course of two years, students and faculty worked with quilters, documented stories of Cowee elders, and participated in the preservation of a community general store.
“Cowee is important as it is representative of the many small towns across the South that are caught in the cross-currents of a need to preserve a way of life that is increasingly fragile, and the need to move ahead with the times,” Stasz said. “Thus, Cowee can be understood as a microcosm of the ‘old Appalachia’ of small, self-sufficient farms and
tight-knit communities, and the ‘new Appalachia’ of tourism and retirement homes.”
As part of this larger project, PERCS offered a 2-hour gateway course titled "Appalachian Ethnography" to introduce students to the field project.
This interdisciplinary course focuses on the ethical conduct of participant observation, in-depth interviewing and archival research in the study of a small region in Appalachia rich in historical and contemporary significance. Course readings and activities will sensitize students to the unique socio-cultural and political landscape of the region, the effects of power and privilege within the research process and the salience of multiple class, gender and ethnic identities to gaining knowledge and understanding of others. Fieldwork during two weekend site visits will give students hands-on practice in the strategies and skills of qualitative data collection, coding, and analysis. This course will lay the groundwork for a multi-year research project that interested students will have the option to participate in.
For a list of presentations and publications on Cowee, click here!