Publication Date

Spring 4-5-2019


In the context of the US, anthropology and Indigenous politics are interconnected phenomena with points of intersection that are more often assumed then empirically explored. Using a historical anthropological approach, this study addresses this oversight through a focused analysis of the interconnected histories of anthropology and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Southern Arizona. Illustrated through four case studies of engagements between anthropologists and the Pascua Yaqui, I pose three interrelated arguments regarding the relationship between anthropology and Indigenous political formations. To being with, the dichotomous view of anthropology as friend or foe, dominator or liberator, to and of Native communities is not tenable in this particular case. From the 1930s to the present, this relationship has been, if anything, a mixed bag. To think about the history of anthropology and Pascua Yaqui politics in such a binary manner yields very little insight. Additionally, anthropology does not appear either as an enemy or as a savior in this history; anthropology was in many ways more of a tool selectively deployed by Yaqui intellectuals. As I illustrate across each chapter, there has been a long-term pattern of Yaqui thinkers and advocates who used anthropological texts, institutions, events, and individuals to bring about their own objectives–namely, to construct and maintain the Pascua Yaqui as a culturally distinct and politically viable community in Southern Arizona. Finally, as Yaqui intellectuals have enrolled anthropology into their political repertoire, they have subtly–but consequentially–shaped the formation of anthropology itself. This confirms the findings of several contemporary scholars who argue that Native peoples have played a heretofore underappreciate role in the formation of the discipline and its key concepts. While their contributions to anthropology may not have always been fully conscious or intentional, Yaqui intellectuals and their political projects certainly had a role to play.


history, historical anthropology, history of anthropology, Indigenous Studies, US Southwest, Yaqui

Document Type




Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Anthropology

First Committee Member (Chair)

Les Field

Second Committee Member

David Dinwoodie

Third Committee Member

Suzanne Oakdale

Fourth Committee Member

Lindsay Smith

Available for download on Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Anthropology Commons