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William P. Mitchell, Ph.D.

  • Professor Emeritus of Anthropology

Department: History and Anthropology

Phone: 732-263-5644


Dr. Mitchell, emeritus Professor of Anthropology and Freed Foundation Professor in the Social Sciences, has published widely on Peruvian society and history.  His long research trajectory in the Andes has focused on political economy, ecological and agropastoral systems, social and religious change, migration, peace and war, and along with his wife Dr. Barbara H. 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.

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 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.  Active in the peace movement, Dr. Mitchell also served as president of Monmouth (County) People for Peace and Disarmament. 

Dr. Mitchell devotes considerable effort to professional responsibilities, including service on the initial Labor Relations Committee of the American Anthropological Association.  A member of the Executive Committee and Board of the Association of Senior Anthropologists, Dr. Mitchell was its president from 2016 to 2018.  A Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, he was former chair of the Academy’s Anthropology section and is a member of its Advisory Committee. 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.


Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh

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, in other areas of the Peruvian Coast, and in the United States.  He 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 field research, he continues to write and publish, using his long history of field work to do so.


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.

(* indicates student co-author)

Scholarly Articles

Transforming Migration: An Andean Perspective on the Work of Constance Sutton.”  2020 (under consideration).  To be published in a planned volume  on the Theoretical Contributions of Constance Sutton.

“Priming Ethnography:  The Theoretical and Largely Unconscious Guides Structuring Over Half a Century of Andean Research.” Published in a Special Issue of Journal of Anthropological Research 76 (2020): 74-89.

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

“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 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.” In 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 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 H. 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.