top of page

Mexico and the Andes

My research in Mexico and the Andes can be broken down into six main categories: 

  • Space, Time, and Beauty among the Wixárika

  • Mask and masquerades in Mexico, Guatemala, and the Andes

  • Post-classic central Mexican earth deities

  • Material Symbols

  • Occupied Mexico

  • Art, Nationalism, and Identity in Yucatan and Mexico




My fieldwork among the Wixárika focused on the relations between aesthetic and moral categories and their expression in divisions of time (kinship and cosmology) and space (social organization and sacred geography). Based in San Andrés Coamiata and Guadalupe Ocotán in the Sierra del Nayar, research correlated story-telling, ritual cycle and the agricultural year. I later carried-out library and archival work in the registros parroquiales, Guadalajara to better understand the relationship between political and religious change in the sierra and the continuance of common Uto-Aztecan ritual and ceremonial patterns.


My interest in the ritual context of mask and masquerade in Nahua and neighbouring communities in central Mexico, grew out of my work on the correlation of Wixárika ritual with the agricultural cycle and observations on the parallels between them. I have published two books on Mexican masquerades to date and am currently working on a third on propitiatory and portal ceremonies and their relationship to pre-Hispanic conceptualizations of the earth, sustainability and eschatology. This work dovetails with my earlier interest in pre-Hispanic earth deities.


My work on material symbols builds on the works of Peter Riviere and Mary Helms on the propensity of the inherent qualities of materials (reflection, shimmer, weight, colour, occurrence) to embody rich symbolic meanings. My published research focuses on turquoise in pre-Hispanic Mexico, and silver in pre-Hispanic and post-Hispanic Andean object-entities.


The category Occupied Mexico, inspired by Talal Asad’s critical re-evaluation of the works of the founding fathers of British social anthropology, consists of studies on the ideological underpinnings and epistemic violence inherent in US approaches to Mexican ethnography (the Smithsonian Tarascan Project (1945-1950), the Harvard Chiapas Project (1957-1992), community studies (1923-1962), and the culture and personality school (1950-1970). I returned to this theme again in The Imaginary Southwest which examined how tropes of Orientalism were developed to depict those areas of Mexico that were conquered and occupied by the US since the war of 1846-1848.

My last interest in these geographical areas focuses on the early Independence political history of Yucatan and the question of why successive state governments rejected the mobilization of printing, painting, and monuments in the construction of their separatist identity. The research was based on four month’s work in archives, libraries, and museum reserves in Merida and elsewhere in the state.  


  • 1982 Politics and Perception: Ideological Restructuration and Ethnographic Discourse. Cultures et Developpement: Revue Internationale de sciences du developpement XIV (2-3): 395-425.

  • 1983 Disinheriting the Tzotzil: Neutrality and Ideological Effect in Ethnographic Discourse. Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford XIV (1): 116-123.

  • 1987 Bolivian Carnival. British Museum Society Bulletin, no. 55:18-19.

  • 1988 Towards an Anthropology of Exploitation. Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford XVIII (3): 237-247.

  • 1988 Latin American Indian Jewellery. In John Mack (ed), Ethnic Jewellery. London, British Museum Publications: 148-153.

  • 1994 Fictions and Parodies: Masquerade in Mexico and South America. In John Mack (ed.), Masks. The Art of Expression. London, British Museum Press: 82-105.

  • 1994 Huichol Prayer: Image and Word in Sacred Communication. Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford XXV(1): 77-89.

  • 1996 The Girl Who Ground Herself: Huichol Attitudes to Maize. In S. Scaefer and P. Furst (eds), People of the Peyote. Huichol Indian History, Religion and Survival. Albuquerque and London, University of New Mexico Press: 451- 467.

  • 1996 Mesoamerican Masquerade. Macmillan Dictionary of Art. London, Macmillan.

  • 1996 South American Masquerade. Macmillan Dictionary of Art. London, Macmilla

  • 2000 Los Tlocololeros. A Structuralist Interpretation of a Mexican Dance Drama. Antropologia Portuguesa 19: 43-68.

  • 2001 Theatres of Combat: Humiliation, Vindication, and the Expression of Difference in Mexican Dance Dramas. Antropologia Portuguesa 18: 13-54.

  • 2004 The Performative Life of Narratives. European Chivalric Literature and the Dances of the Moors and Christians. In Ghulam Sarwar-Yousof (ed.), Asian-European Epics. Kuala Lumpur, University of Malaya Press

  • 2012 (Editor), Luminescence: The Silver of Peru. Lima, Patronato Plata del Peru.

  • 2012 The Divine Exchange. Silver in Colonial and Republican Peru. In A. Shelton (ed.), Luminescence: The Silver of Peru. Lima, Patronato Plata del Peru: 53-70.

  • 2012 Luminescence. Silver and World-Views in the Andes. 1400-2000. In A. Shelton (ed.), Luminescence: The Silver of Peru. Lima, Patronato Plata del Peru: 73-102.

  • 2012 Introduction. In A. Shelton (ed.), Luminescence: The Silver of Peru. Lima, Patronato Plata del Peru: 7-10.

  • 2017 (with N. Levell). Eds. From Carnival to Lucha Libre. Mexican Masks and Devotions / Do Carnaval à Luta Livre: Máscaras e Devoções Mexicanas. Lisbon, Museu de Lisboa. Pp. 206.

  • 2017 (with N. Levell). Introduction. In A. Shelton and N. Levell (eds.), From Carnival to Lucha Libre. Mexican Masks and Devotions. Lisbon, Museu de Lisboa. Pp. 21-30​

  • 2021 Shelton, Anthony. Theatrum Mundi. Vancouver: Figure 1 Publishing and UBC MOA, 2021.


M A Text
bottom of page