Geographical Areas of Specialization

  • Mexico; Russia; Ireland; and Eastern Europe

Research Interests

  • local and global identities; anthropology of dance, performance, popular theater; ethnic identity, aesthetics and creative processes; indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica; death belief and ritual; anthropological writing; landscapes and identities

Anthropology, especially ethnography, and its examination of how people can and do craft satisfying lives for themselves, often against great odds and requiring passion, tenacity, and imagination, had been my vocation since my undergraduate days at Stanford.

My first book, published in Mexico in 1975, examined this question of identity, both ethnic and class, among the Zapotec of Juchitan.

I have continued field research and writing about the Zapotec, dealing with such diverse topics as music, fiesta and dance, visual arts and poetry, ethnicity, the role of intellectuals and artists, pilgrimage and death. My most recent work, Becoming an Ancestor: The Isthmus Zapotec Way of Death (2011)examines Isthmus Zapotec beliefs about death and their ways of commemorating it. My current research in Juchitan examines Zapotec painters, poets, and musicians and their art, especially as they negotiate tradition and innovation.

Questions such as how people define themselves and what contexts help or hinder that process came out of my work with the Zapotec but I have pursued those issues globally and comparatively, trying to develop a theoretical base for understanding those processes no matter what the group.


  • France
  • Identity
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Poland


  • Minority Languages and Cultures Project
Past Affiliations
European Studies, Literature, Literature, North American Studies, Chicano/a Studies, Music, Russian, Anthropology
DLitt, University of Limerick, 2010
PhD, University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology, 1974
MA, University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology, 1971
BA, Stanford University, Anthropology, 1968
performing arts dance anthropology ethnic studies indigenous peoples social justice
English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish

Phi Beta Kappa Couper Scholar (Visiting Scholar), Mellon Foundation/Phi Beta Kappa (Indiana University Bloomington), 2007-2008

2005 P.A.Mack award for Distinguished Service to Teaching, Faculty Colloquiam on Excellence in Teaching (Indiana University Bloomington), 2005-2005

Bogliasco Fellow (Virtuosity and Artistry: Toward a Common Aesthetic in Dance and Music), Bogliasco Foundation, Liguria Study Center, 2001

American Anthropological Association