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William P. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

Photo of William P. Mitchell Ph.D.

Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh

The Great Hall Annex 11

Dr. Mitchell, emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Freed Foundation Professor in the Social Sciences, is currently President of the Association of Senior Anthropologists of the American Anthropological Association, a term he will complete in November 2018.

Professor Mitchell has published widely on many aspects of Peruvian culture and history, including the region's political economy, issues of peace and war, ecological and agropastoral systems, sociocultural evolution, displaced people, migration, social and religious change, and along with his wife Barbara Jaye, Quechua religious pictographs.

His book Voices from the Global Margin won the 2007 Lasa Peru Flora Tristan Award of the Latin American Studies Association for the best book on Peru in any language or discipline.

During his career at Monmouth, Professor Mitchell was selected Distinguished Teacher and taught both undergraduate and graduate courses on Cultural Anthropology, Civilizations of the Andes, Global Ecological problems, and World/Global History. In addition to his service as a department chair, Professor Mitchell was founding head of the Honors Program and served as Interim Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Interim Dean of the Honors School.

A recipient of many grants and awards (NSF, NEH, Fulbright Hayes, Wenner Gren Foundation, Freed Foundation, among others), Professor Mitchell also taught at Brooklyn College early in his career and was a Visiting Professor at the Universidad Católica in Lima Peru.

A Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, he is also a member and former chair of the Academy's Anthropology Advisory Committee.

Research Interests

Professor Mitchell began field research in the Ayacucho region of Peru in the mid-1960s, focusing on ecological systems, farming and irrigation, then in the 1970s and 1980s, examining the pressures on peasant production that underlay economic, social and religious change.

Prevented by the 1980s Shining Path war from working in Ayacucho, he continued his research with Ayacucho migrants in Lima and other areas of the Peruvian Coast, but returned to Ayacucho and Huancayo in the 1990s to explore the violence of the war and to work with the people displaced by it.

While he no longer engages in active Andean field research, he continues to write and his most recent paper (presented at the 2017 Latin American Studies Association meeting in Lima, Peru) focuses on Andean solidarity rituals found in the everyday, intimate relationships of family and friends.


Voices from the Global Margin: Confronting Poverty and Inventing New Lives in the Andes.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.

* Awarded the 2007  LASA PERU FLORA TRISTAN AWARD  of the Latin American Studies Association for the best book published on Peru*

“Inspirational,” “engaging,” “creative and thoughtful” “offers a unique human element …rarely…matched in Andean studies …” Miguel la Serna, Latin American and Caribbean Studies , vol. 3[2], pp. 205-214.

Picturing Faith: A Facsimile Edition of the Pictographic Catechism in the Huntington Free Library. New York: Huntington Free Library, Distributed by the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1999 (With Barbara H. Jaye).  The original is now in the manuscript collection at Cornell University.

“…a slim jewel of a book [that represents] two decades of research and more of comprehensive and in-depth research…on pictographic catechisms, a little known genre of Andean ideographic writing.”  The book should be read in conjunction with their scholarly article on the topic (Mitchell and Jaye 1996, see below) which is “…the most substantive and definitive study of its kind (for the Andes)…,” Margot Meyersdorff, Latin American Indian Literatures Journal  (1999) 15(2), pp. 144-146.

Irrigation at High Altitudes: The Social Organization of Water Control Systems in the Andes, ed. (with David Guillet) . Vol. 12 Society For Latin American Anthropology Publication Series. Washington: American Anthropological Association, 1994.

“A major contribution to our knowledge of the relationship between environment and social organization in the Andes … An integrated anthology …,” Joanne Rappaport,  Handbook of Latin American Studies  1997:141.

“… covers a multitude of aspects of Andean agriculture and shows the importance of…irrigation…,” Maria Benavides,  Latin American Research Review , vol. 31 (2).

Peasants on the Edge: Crop, Cult, and Crisis in the Andes.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

“…richly informative account of a changing community in the…Ayacucho, Peru” that “belongs on a shelf of the most useful and influential Andean monographs,” Jim Weil, Latin American Anthropology Review  4(2): 87

“…important reading for anyone wishing to understand socioeconomic conditions in the region where…Sendero Luminoso originated,” Michael Chibnik, American Anthropologist  94(4): 954.

Scholarly Articles

“Irrigation Systems” in International Encyclopedia of Anthropology, Human Ecology and Environments Section , Hilary Callan, ed.  Wiley-Blackwell (In Press).

“Pictographic Catechisms.” in Guide to Documentary Sources for Andean Studies 1530-1900. Pp. 265-271. Joanne Pillsbury, ed. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. This book was chosen as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2008.

“Detour Onto The Shining Path: Obscuring the Social Revolution in the Andes.” in Deadly Developments: Capitalism, States and War. Pp. 235-278. Steven P. Reyna and R. E. Downs, eds. Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach Publishers, 1999.

“Pressures on Peasant Production and the Transformation of Regional and National Identities.” in Migrants, Regional Identities, and Latin American Cities, Teofilo Altamirano and Lane Hirabayashi, eds. Washington: American Anthropological Association, Publication Series of the Society for Latin American Anthropology, 13 (1997): 25-48.

“Pictographs in the Andes: The Huntington Free Library Quechua Catechism.Latin American Indian Literatures Journal 12(1) (1996):1-42 (with Barbara H. Jaye).

“The Transformation of Cultural Anthropology: The Decline of Ecology and Structure and the Rise of Political Economy and the Cultural Construction of Social Reality.” Ecologie Humaine 12(2) (1994): 41-64.

“Introduction to High Altitude Irrigation.” Introduction to Irrigation at High Altitudes: The Social Organization of Water Control Systems in the Andes, William P. Mitchell and David Guillet,eds. Pp. 1-20. Vol. 12 Society For Latin American Anthropology Publication Series. Washington: American Anthropological Association, 1994.

“Dam the Water: The Ecology and Political Economy of Irrigation in the Ayacucho Valley, Peru.” in Irrigation at High Altitudes: The Social Organization of Water Control Systems in the Andes, William P. Mitchell and David Guillet, eds. Pp. 275-302. Vol. 12 Society For Latin American Anthropology Publication Series. Washington: American Anthropological Association, 1994.

“Some are More Equal than Others: Labor Supply, Reciprocity, and Redistribution in the Andes.” Research in Economic Anthropology 13 (1991): 191-219.

“The US War Machine .”  Anthropology Newsletter , American Anthropological Association 32 (April 1991): 4.”The Only Game in Town: The Latin American Fiesta System and the York Feast of Corpus Christi.” Fifteenth Century Studies 13 (1988): 485-503. (With Barbara Jaye).

“The Myth of the Isolated Native Community: A Case Study from Peru.” Global Interdependence in the Curriculum: Case Studies for the Social Sciences. Judy Himes, ed. Pp. 35-49. Princeton: Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 1987.”

On Terracing the Andes.” Current Anthropology 26 (1985): 288-289.”Symbols and Structuralism in the Andes: A Case of Theory Obscuring the Facts.” Reviews in Anthropology 9 (1982): 87-96.

“Local Ecology and the State: Implications of Contemporary Quechua Land Use for the Inca Sequence of Agricultural Work.” In Beyond the Myths of Culture: Essays in Cultural Materialism, Eric B. Ross, ed. Pp. 139-154. New York: Academic Press, 1980.

“Inconsistencia de Status y Dimensiones de Rangos en los Andes Centrales del Peru.” Estudios Andinos 15 (1979): 21-31.

“Social Adaptation to the Mountain Environment of an Andean Village.” In Hill Lands: Proceedings of an International Symposium. Held at West Virginia University on October 3-9, 1976. John Luchok, John D. Cawthon, and Michael J. Breslin, eds. Pp. 187-198. Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 1978.

“Irrigation and Community in the Central Peruvian Highlands.” American Anthropologist 78 (1976): 25-44.

“The Hydraulic Hypothesis: A Reappraisal.” Current Anthropology 14 (1973): 532-534.