Anya Peterson Royce is Chancellor’s Professor of Anthropology and of Comparative Literature at Indiana University. She received a BA in Anthropology with Distinction as well as Honors in Humanities from Stanford University in 1968. Her Masters degree in Anthropology (1971) and her PhD in Anthropology (1974) are from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, D.Litt, from the University of Limerick. In 2016, she was awarded the Medalla Binniza (Medal of the Zapotec People) in a ceremony in Juchitán, Oaxaca, for her contributions to the scholarship about the Zapotec people. She is the first non-Mexican or Zapotec to receive this honor.
Royce is one of the pioneers in the Anthropology of Dance, bringing together her early career in classical ballet, trained in the Russian school and dancing in companies in New York and San Francisco, with Cultural Anthropology, to examine interpretation and creativity in embodied performance—dance, music, theater. Royce’s three books on dance and performing arts include The Anthropology of Dance (1977, 2002 (with a new introduction), and a Polish edition with a new chapter and photographs in 2015), Movement and Meaning in Ballet and Mime (1984), and The Anthropology of the Performing Arts: Artistry, Virtuosity, and Interpretation in Cross-Cultural Contexts (2004, 2012 in Polish). She is now completing a fourth, Pilobolus: The Anatomy of a Collaborative Creative Enterprise, 1971-2011. She lectures and teaches in Poland, Ireland, and Hungary about the anthropology of dance, performing arts, and pilgrimage, in addition to her appointment at Indiana University.
Paralleling her pioneering work in dance is her 50 year ethnographic research with the Isthmus Zapotec of Oaxaca. Her first book about the Isthmus Zapotec, Prestigio y Afiliación en una Comunidad Urbana: Juchitán, Oaxaca, was published in 1974 by INI (the national indigenous institute), and was reprinted in 1991 in a special series of the 100 most important books about indigenous peoples of Mexico. It has been reprinted again in 2016 as one of the 25 most important books on the Isthmus Zapotec. Her book, Ethnic Identity: Strategies of Diversity (1982) presents the Zapotec material in one of the case studies. Her latest book, Becoming an Ancestor: The Isthmus Zapotec Way of Death (2011), examines the beliefs about death and how it is celebrated in this indigenous community. Notions of death as transformation effected by journeys through physical and spiritual landscapes has led her to examine Zapotec pilgrimage rooted in beliefs about sacred space, and practiced today as a way to transform oneself and one’s community. With internal grants from Indiana University, she has begun a collaborative project with the poets, painters, and musicians of Juchitán– Isthmus Zapotec Artists and their Art: Image, Word, and Sound. This will include a book and DVD in Spanish, Zapotec, and English, and an exhibit of photographs.
Royce’s interest in landscapes of transformation in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec has led her to see parallels in how Irish think about and traverse their landscapes. She has examined Irish pilgrimage since 2011 through walking, mapping, and photographing the landscapes of western and southwestern Ireland which have supported pilgrimages from the Neolithic down to today’s honoring of saints Patrick, Columba, Breandan, and Brigid.
Royce’s books, edited volumes, articles, and chapters have been translated into Spanish, French, Polish, Greek, Korean, Chinese, and Indonesian. Her research has been supported by fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, The Social Science Research Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, the National Institutes of Health, and internal grants from Indiana University. Her teaching and mentoring have been recognized by eight distinguished teaching awards at the university and state levels, including the Tracy M. Sonneborn award for Distinguished research and teaching, as well as by being selected as an Erasmus Choreomundus Visiting Scholar and as External Examiner for Ethnochoreology at the University of Limerick (2010-2014).
Royce’s languages include: English, French, German, Isthmus Zapotec, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Russian.