Beverly Stoeltje

Beverly Stoeltje

Professor Emeritus


  • Ph.D., Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 1979
  • M.A., Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 1973
  • B.S., Education, University of Texas at Austin, 1961

About Beverly Stoeltje

When I began my graduate work in 1970 the critique of anthropology was just emerging, directing attention to the relationship between the ethnographer and the ethnographic subject. Also, in the seventies interest in ritual/festival/celebration assumed a prominence in the field, directing attention to these events in which identity is displayed, politics are enacted, and artistic dimensions of culture are performed consistent with specific local preoccupations, resources, and history. These influences led me to the choice of rodeo as my dissertation topic. Still a major focus of my work, the “ritual genres” embody power relations and may lend themselves to the forces of domination or to the efforts of resistance, but they are equally as relevant to contemporary society as to preindustrial ones.

Throughout my career women and gender issues have captured my interest. At times I have concentrated on representations of women in performance such as the rodeo, and at other times I have focused on women of the American West, especially the cowgirl. My interest shifted to Asante Queen Mothers in 1990, however, the female leaders of the Asante and the larger group of Akan peoples of Ghana. Concentrating on their role as performed in contemporary society has led me to the anthropology of law, particularly the law of the Asante people as practiced in what is called the “customary courts” of Ghana. Concentrating on chieftaincy, including queen mothers, as practiced among contemporary Asante, my research analyzes the role of queen mothers as it is performed today, on narrative in Asante society, and on the chiefs’ and queen mothers’ courts and the litigants who utilize these courts to resolve disputes.

Ritual forms emerged in popular culture where they reflect the social formations of a particular time and place. Particularly reflective of globalization and efforts to redefine women’s position in society are beauty pageants, ritual events around the world in which women are placed on display for society’s evaluations. While considered trivial by some and vulgar by others, these events attract a huge following, are popularized by the media, and indicate to us just how concepts of gender are traveling around the globe and what strategies are employed to harness the powers of young women. My interest in this subject led to the co-editorship of the book, Beauty Queens on the Global Stage, with Colleen Cohen and Rick Wilk.

Consistent with this interest in the dissemination of ideologies and rituals is my interest in forms of nationalism. Specifically, I define my interest as the intersection of nationalism and symbolic forms. Understanding the fundamentals of social movements that are recognized as cultural nationalism or national identities and the symbolic forms such as narrative, law, film, literature, song and ritual genres that are associated with them, is the goal of much of my work as well as that of a course I teach called, “Performing Nationalism.”

Selected Publications

2009 Narrating Conflict in Asante: A Woman, Legal Procedure, and Traditional Religion. Research in African Literature.

2006 The Performance fo Litigation. Research Review. New Series, vol. 22. No.1. Institute of African Studies. University of Ghana, Legon.

2002 Guest Editor, Special Issue of Africa Today: Women, Language and Law in Africa., Vol. 49 (1) and (2).

2002 El Cowboy Como Emblema del Nacionalismo: la Construccion de una Tradicion Selectiva. Patrimonio Cultural y Communicacion: Nuevos Enfoques y Estrategias. Museo de Motios Argentinos Jose Harnandez. Buenos Aires.