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Michele McArdle Stephens

Adjunct Associate Professor

Teaching Fields

  • Colonial and Modern Latin America
  • Indigenous peoples of Latin America
  • History of Mexico
  • Race and Gender in Latin America


  • LL.M., University of Essex (UK), 2021
  • Ph.D., The University of Oklahoma, 2011
  • M.A., California State University, Los Angeles, 2004
  • B.A., Rutgers University, 1999

Research Interests

Dr. Stephens' research interests emphasize issues of gender and ethnicity. Her first book examined the Huichol (or Wixarika), an indigenous group in western Mexico. The Huichols inhabit the western states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Durango, and Zacatecas, and have maintained an identity apart from that of their neighbors. The Huichols' deep love for their homeland, and their religious devotion that places sacred significance upon all that they do, have sustained them through centuries of violence, economic strife, and contact with the wider world. She argues that the Huichols offer a way to understand how native peoples in a global context can bridge both indigenous cultural traditions while simultaneously operating within the norms of the modern world. In understanding their history, we come to see the Huichols as ethnically unified but politically fractured, as well as in constant negotiation with alien peoples, customs, and social norms. Their adaptations to 19th- and 20th-century changes were negotiations, and in this way allowed them to preserve many important components of their culture that helped maintain a distinct identity, as opposed to assimilating into Mexican culture and society. 

Dr. Stephens' current research focuses on gender, ethnicity, and violence (broadly conceived) in Mexico and the Canary Islands. She is working on two unrelated projects, the first a study on intimate partner violence in the criminal codes of the states of Yucatán and Campeche in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Examining these penal codes, she hopes to elucidate whether women of different ethnic and economic backgrounds received different treatment by judicial officials when they sought justice from abusive partners. Dr. Stephens' work on the Canary Islands is a brand new, collaborative project with Dr. Tania de Miguel Magro, associate professor of Spanish in the Department of World Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. Together, they will study Inquisition cases in Spain, the Canary Islands, and Mexico, focusing particularly on instances in which priests demanded sexual favors from female parishioners, in exchange for absolution. They hope to examine the language used in these Inquisition trials and see how language and treatment of women may have changed as Spain expanded its imperial borders, first to the Canary Islands, and then to the Americas. 

Courses Offered

  • HIST 104: Latin America – Past and Present
  • HIST 241: Latin America – Conquest, Colonization, and Colonialism 
  • HIST 242: Latin America – Reform and Revolution
  • HIST 350: Aztecs, Incas, Mayas
  • HIST 439: Modern Mexico
  • HIST 440: Mexican Law from Moctezuma to El Chapo
  • HIST 484: History Capstone: Race and Gender in Latin America
  • HIST 729: Graduate Readings in Latin American History
  • HIST 789: Teaching History Online 


“Violence against Women in the Criminal Codes of Yucatán and Campeche, 1872-1915.” In progress.

In the Lands of Fire and Sun: Resistance and Accommodation in the Huichol Sierra, 1723-1930 (University of Nebraska Press, May 2018)


“Victims and Assailants: Women, Violence, and the Law in Yucatán, 1900-1910.” (Submitted and rejected- Latin America Research Review, 2018; revising). In Progress.

“'…la determinación de pedir el amparo’: Domestic Violence, Alcohol, and the Criminal Justice System in Yucatán, 1872-1901,” Hispanic American Historical Review. In Progress.

"Huichol Culture in Mexico, 1930-Present.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Latin American History, William H. Beezley, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2020 (Online publication).

“The Caste Wars in Yucatán.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Mexican History and Culture, William H. Beezley, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Reprint, 2019.

“The Caste Wars in Yucatán.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History, William H. Beezley, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2017 (Online publication).  

”"...As long as they have their land’: The Huichols of Western Mexico, 1850-1895,” Ethnohistory, Vol.62 (1), January 2015.

Terry Rugeley and Michele M. Stephens, “Indigenism in General and the Maya in Particular in the Nineteenth Century.” In A Companion to Mexican History and Culture. William H. Beezley, ed. West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, 328-338.

Grants and Awards

  • CAORC-NEH Senior Fellowship (Alternate), 2020
  • American Philosophical Society, Franklin Research Grant, 2020
  • West Virginia Humanities Council Research Fellowship, 2020
  • West Virginia University Humanities Center Research Fellowship, 2020
  • Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Researcher Award, 2019
  • Research and Scholarship Advancement Grant, Office of Sponsored Programs, West Virginia University, 2019
  • West Virginia University Humanities Center Summer Fellowship, 2018
  • Postdoctoral Guest Fellowship, Max Planck Institute for European Legal History, Frankfurt, Germany, 2017
  • West Virginia Humanities Council Fellowship, 2017
  • Riggle Summer Fellowship, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, West Virginia University, 2015
  • Research and Scholarship Advancement Grant, Office of Sponsored Programs, West Virginia University, 2014