AnyaPeterson Royce

AnyaPeterson Royce

Chancellors' Professor Emeritus


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley , 1974
  • D.Litt, University of Limerick, 2010
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, 1971
  • B.A., Anthropology and Honors in Humanities, Stanford University, 1968

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

About Anya Peterson Royce

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.

I received a Ford Foundation scholarship for research in Mexico on the transition of dance from village to theatre. I saw the Isthmus Zapotec of Juchitan, Oaxaca for the first time at a celebration of music and dance. I was astounded then by their vibrancy and self-confidence and, after forty-eight years of fieldwork among them, I continue to be amazed by their ability to move with assurance in Mexico and the world and maintain a powerful sense of themselves as Zapotec.

My first book, published in Mexico in 1975, examined this question of identity, both ethnic and class, among the Zapotec of Juchitan. It has been reprinted in special collections in 1991 and 2015. 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.

Ethnicity and identity, broadly speaking, have been other longstanding research and teaching interests. 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. While macro-level processes are crucial, so are the individual responses and balancing the two has been a goal for me. My 1982 book, Ethnic Identity: Strategies of Diversity, developed theories about the strategic use of ethnicity by societies and individuals.

The Anthropology of dance and performing arts brings together my initial experience as a dancer with my scholarly interest in what and how dance and the performing arts mean in a variety of cultures both past and present. Much of my research and writing lies in this field, first with a foundational book, The Anthropology of Dance (1977) now available in Greek, Korean, Polish and Indonesian. A second edition was published with a new introductory chapter in 2002 by DanceBooks Ltd. The Polish translation (2014) has a new chapter as well as new photographs. Movement and Meaning in Ballet and Mime (1984)examined the relationship of movement and meaning in ballet and mime. The Anthropology of Performing Arts: Artistry, Virtuosity, and Interpretation (2004) focuses on artistry, virtuosity, meaning, and interpretation. A Polish edition by Warsaw University Press came out in 2011. I am currently working on a book, under contract with Wesleyan University Press, about the Pilobolus Dance Theatre, a contemporary dance company founded in 1971 by four men at Dartmouth College. It offers an opportunity to examine a unique (for professional arts organizations) creative process based on collaborative improvisation where each individual contribution is important, and the assumption that no specific training in dance is necessary. The communal basis for innovation as well as the democratic view of who can create makes Pilobolus rare in professional Western settings. They have more in common with persistent cultures and their processes for creating ritual and perpetuating themselves across shifts in the larger context. It is an opportunity to explore creativity, definitions of artistry and aesthetics, structural and cultural requisites for persistence and innovation, and the relationship between individual and community.

Honors and Awards

Honorary Doctorate, D.Litt. University of Limerick 2011.

Medalla Binniza (Medal, Spirit of the Zapotec People), 2016, for distinguished scholarly contributions to the Zapotec people. First non-Mexican recipient.

Erasmus Visiting Scholar, 2014-2015, Budapest and Szeged, Hungary.

Magisterial lecture, Guidxi Stine’ Ne Ca Xpanda’/ Mi Pueblo y Sus Retratos, Casa de la Cultura, Juchitán, Oaxaca, June 3, 2016

Outstanding Faculty Award, from the statewide Indiana Council for Continuing Education, for outstanding teaching in Lifelong Learning programs, 2014

Erasmus Mundus Visiting Scholar Grant, Choreomundus International Masters in Dance Knowledge, Practice, and Heritage, 2014, 2015

2010. Recognition, the Anya Peterson Royce Showcase Award, to be given

annually to an Arts Week event that expresses particular artistry in the fields of dance, music, or performance.

Thomas Hart Benton Medal, for extraordinary service to Indiana University, 1992

Appointment, the External Examiner for the Masters Program in Ethnochoreology, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, 2010-2015.

John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, 1980-1981.

Seven distinguished teaching awards: campus, university, state, and international

Invited participant, “Stepping Stones Towards the New Vision,” Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, April 15―18, 2008, Limerick, Ireland

Phi Beta Kappa Couper Scholar, 2006―2007

Recipient, 2005 P.A. Mack Award for Distinguished Service to Teaching, awarded by the Faculty Colloquium on Excellence in Teaching (FACET), Indiana University, 2005


  • E485 Art and Craft of Ethnography;
  • E460/660 Creativity and Collaboration in the Arts, Sensuous Knowledge--the Aesthetics of place, image, word, sound, and movement, Ephemeral Arts of Mexico;
  • E463 Anthropology of Dance;
  • E321 Peoples of Mexico;
  • E600 Reading and Writing Ethnography;
  • C104 Chocolate: Food of the Gods;
  • E600 Topics in the Arts and Anthropology


I am a social and cultural anthropologist whose research and writing is based on long-term ethnographic field work with the Isthmus Zapotec of Juchitan, Oaxaca (1968 to present), with dance cultures and communities in Europe, the United States, and Latin America (1968 to present), and on landscapes of pilgrimage in Mexico and Ireland.

Selected Publications

2016. Prestigio y afiliación en una comunidad urbana: Juchitán, Oaxaca. Translated by Carlos Guerrero.  Special repr. ed. In a selected collection of the 25 most important books written about the Isthmus Zapotec of Mexico. Funded by CONACULTA, under its cultural patrimony mandate.

2014. Antropologia Tanca [The Anthropology of Dance, Polish translation]. Includes a new chapter bringing the field up to date since 2002; includes new photographs. Warsaw: Warsaw University Press.

2011. Antropologia Sztuk Performatywnych: Artzym, Wirtuozeria, i interpretacja w perspektywie miedzykulturowej. Warsaw: Warsaw University Press.

2011. Becoming an Ancestor: The Isthmus Zapotec Way of Death, State University of New York Press.

2004. The Anthropology of performing Arts: Artistry, Virtuosity, And Interpretation in a Cross-Cultural Context. Walnut Creek,CA: AltaMira Press.

2002. The Anthropology of Dance, Repr. ed. with a new introduction by the author. London: Dance Books.

1990. Prestigio y afiliación en una comunidad urbana: Juchitán, Oaxaca.  Repr. ed. Translated by Carlos Guerrero.  Colección Presencias 29.  México, D.F.: Dirección General de Publicaciones del Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las      Artes/Instituto Nacional Indigenista.  [Reprint of the 1975 edition in a selected collection of important books on indigenous peoples; 7000 copies.]

1984. Movement and Meaning: Creativity and Interpretation in Ballet and Mime. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


“Landscapes of the In-Between: Artists Mediating Cultures,” In The Artist Turned Inside-Out, a volume commemorating the 20th anniversary of the founding of The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Helen Phelan andGraham Welch, eds., in press.

2017. "Elizabeth Colson (1917-2016) Reflections on a Conversation." Anthropology Southern Africa, vol.40, no.2.

2013. “Taking the Long Way Round: Journeys of Transformation,” in Of Our Times/Comhaimseartha, August. Limerick: The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

2008. “Voices of the True Peoples: Indigenous Mexican Poets and Writers for the Theater.” Review essay discussing Poetry and Theater, Vols. 2 and 3 of Words of The True Peoples—Palabras de los Seres Verdaderos: Anthology of Contemporary Mexican Indigenous-Language Writers, edited by Carlos Montemayor and Donald Frischmann (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007). e-misférica 5.2(Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics, New York, N.Y.).

2008. “Dance.” In International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 2d ed., edited by William A. Darity, Jr., 2:223―25. Detroit, Mich.: MacMillan Reference USA.

2007. “Dance.” In The Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender, edited by Fedwa Malti-Douglas. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson-Gale.

2005. “Conclusions.” In Anthropologie de la danse: Genèse et construction d’une discipline, edited by Andrée Grau and Georgiana Wierre-Gore, 35-41. Pantin, France: Centre National de la Danse.

“Prólogo.” In Juchitán: Testimonios de un pasado mágico, by Gonzalo Jiménez López, 5- 7. Oaxaca de Juarez, Oax.: Instituto Oaxaqueño de las Culturas/CONACULTA/Delegación Regional de Tehuantepec/PACMYAC.

2002. With RV Kemper, " El Proyecto Etnografico y la Teoria Antropologico," in Homenaje por el Profesor Fernando Camara Barbachano, Mexico , DF, INAH Coleccion Cientifica, pp.139-148.

2002. With RV Kemper, "Cuestiones Eticas para los antropologos sociales en Mexico : Una perspectiva norteamericano a lo largo plazo," Boletin, Colegio de Etnologos y Antropologos Sociales, A.C., #4, Mexico DF, CEAS, pp.2-11.

2002. [with Robert V. Kemper] “Long-Term Field Research: Metaphors, Paradigms, and Themes.” In Chronicling Cultures: Long-Term Field Research in Anthropology, edited by Robert V. Kemper and Anya Peterson Royce, xiii–xxxviii. Walnut Creek, Calif.: AltaMira Press.

2002. "Learning to See, Learning to Listen: Thirty Years of Fieldwork with the Isthmus Zapotec," in Chronicling Cultures: Long-term Field Research in Anthropology, eds. RV Kemper and AP Royce, AltaMira Press, pp8-33.

Poetry published in Qualitative Inquiry (2002, 2004) and in the anthology A Linen Weave of Bloomington Poets (2002)

Poetry published in Qualitative Inquiry (2002, 2004) and in the anthology A Linen Weave of Bloomington Poets (2002)



Photographic exhibit, 2016

2016. Guidxi Stine’ Ne Ca Xpanda’/ Mi Pueblo y Sus Retratos, exhibit of photographs taken between 1971-2014. Casa de la Cultura, Juchitán, Oaxaca, June 3, 2016.