M.A Global Development Studies, Queen's '13
A Track Record of Ambitious Involvement
By Sharday Mosurinjohn
For recent Global Development Studies graduate Sara Korosi, 2013 represents a landslide year for landmark events. She got engaged in December, defended her thesis in April, moved to Toronto and began her new job with Right To Play the next week, became an aunt, and is looking forward to her wedding in August.
Korosi’s whole CV reflects the energy of this vignette, demonstrating a track record of ambitious involvement. During her undergraduate degree in International Development and Cultural Anthropology at Trent University, Korosi was also picking up Spanish, adding a third language to her fluencies in English and French. “Actually, after my first intro course, I decided to push myself by enrolling in a course way beyond my level. It was so challenging, I wondered if I would ever learn the language’!” Little did she know that the skill would prove key in her future research as well as her work outside of the academy.
After graduating from Trent in 2004, Korosi worked for UNICEF, the Canadian Red Cross, an NGO called CESO|SACO, and perhaps less expectedly, an insurance company for lawyers. For the latter job, she relocated to Toronto for over two years, but, eventually overwhelmed by the chaos of downtown Toronto, she decided to leave for the gentler pace of Halifax.
“There I had some down time to explore “what do I want?,” “where do I want to be?” reflects Korosi. “I saw a job posting located out of Vancouver for a job in Bolivia and went for it.” Korosi got the job with Crossroads International, an organization that works throughout the Global South to advance women’s rights and eradicate poverty, and, after some training in Montreal and Vancouver, headed to Bolivia for six months. It turned out that Spanish was actually a second language for both Korosi and most of the Indigenous Bolivian people with whom she worked; between their native Aymara and her native English, Spanish was their lingua franca.
While working with Crossroads International, Korosi found herself reconnecting with her own personal interests and values, and what had brought her to studying development in first place. “I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but I had a lot of questions. I was trying to figure things out.” Years later, after volunteering with Latin American Solidarity Networks in Canada and returning to Bolivia as an International Observer for the 2009 Federal elections, she felt a growing need to increase her understanding. The best way to approach these questions and improve her work, she decided, was through a Master’s degree. Originally, one year was all Korosi intended to spend on a coursework MA. But toward the end of that first year, she knew she needed to apply for the two-year option. “I came back for a reason. I needed to delve deeper.”
Under the supervision of Dr. Richard Day, Korosi began to focus her interest in Andean social movements and decolonization around the case study of the TIPNIS Road Dispute. “The framing was actually thanks to Dr. McDonald who suggested that the dispute, which hinges on the controversial state construction of a road through an Indigenous and ecologically protected territory, would offer a great window into the subjects I wanted to explore.”
Returning to Bolivia for fieldwork, Korosi thought originally that the dispute was a clash of worldviews between Lowland Indigenous communities and the current Bolivian government, the first led by an Indigenous President. “It was only after hearing it over and over from the people who had trusted me to listen to their stories that I finally began to understand that it was not a misunderstanding, but rather part of an ongoing colonial project invested in bringing people to state heel.”
Another key shift in understanding came when Korosi felt the impact of Dr. Day’s insistence that she had to put herself in the research, switching third person to first person and being reflexive about her own role in producing knowledge. “I thought I was researching out. But the story of Bolivia is also the story of here inasmuch as we’re all implicated in these issues and part of histories that are alive in every present.” Korosi smiles and gives a laugh, remembering her bewilderment at the first meeting with her supervisor: “one of the first things he said to me was ‘you need to decolonize your own mind.”
Sara around the world - Toronto, Bolivia and Cuba
Fresh off a thesis defense that, by her account, would be better described as a “friendly conversation,” Korosi is thrilled to embark on an exciting opportunity with Right To Play’s PLAY program, whose acronym stands for its mission to promote life-skills in aboriginal youth. Working in monitoring and evaluation for the program taps into many of Korosi’s skills, including of course, learning the needs and desires of the communities who invite the PLAY program in, as well as assessing how programming is working, and report writing for stakeholders. She has already traveled to several Symposiums to meet members of more than 45 Native communities across the province in Parry Sound and Thunder Bay. For Korosi, it’s not only wonderful to share the values of Right To Play, but to be inspired by the spirit of encouragement the youth share with each other.
Having so thoroughly enjoyed her time at Queen’s among her tight-knit eight-person “Devs” cohort, Korosi remains open to pursuing a PhD down the road. She is most keenly interested now in understanding Indigenous-settler relationships as well as decolonization in the North American context. They are subjects, she says, which brings her back full circle to where she began, at home in Hay Bay and Napanee, close to Tyendinaga Mohawk territory, where she made friends and took a high school job. “In the course of my research and my classes, I’ve had to reexamine everything – my self, my family, all the things that were normalized growing up.” She remains dedicated to continuing this process of unsettling and knows it’ll be time to return to school, once she finds herself able to articulate “another set of burning questions.”