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Michele McArdle Stephens, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Teaching Fields

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


  • 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 focuses on the relationships between communities in Latin America and how communities form in response to internal and external stressors. In her recently-published book, titled In the Lands of Fire and Sun: Resistance and Accommodation in the Huichol Sierra, 1723-1930, she examines the ways in which the Huichols have selectively adapted elements of Spanish and Mexican culture as a way to insulate their indigenous practices from external forces, beliefs, and stressors. Her methodology combines analyses of ethnographic reports, archaeology, anthropological studies, and archival research in order to discover elements of Huichol identity and disunity, use and manipulation of Spanish and Mexican legal systems, and syncretic religious beliefs, among other variables. She is currently writing an article that explores the important contributions of European ethnographers to our understanding of Huichol cultural history.

Dr. Stephens' newest research examines women's participation with the law in early 20th century Yucatán. This project looks at how women understood their roles as litigants, and explores the following issues: how Yucatecan women spoke about their legal experiences and in doing so, how they understood themselves as juridical persons; how legal practitioners viewed female litigants during the first decades of the twentieth century; finally, whether a decline in women’s participation in legal matters over the course of the nineteenth century arose from a perception of women as second-class citizens. While Dr. Stephens hopes to focus on Yucatec Maya women, the study will compare and contrast the experiences of all women in the region around Mérida, Mexico. Dr. Stephens spent several months in 2017 as a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History in Frankfurt, Germany. 

Courses Offered

  • HIST 104: Latin America – Past and Present
  • HIST 241: Latin America – Colonization and Conquest
  • HIST 242: Latin America – Reform and Revolution
  • HIST 242 (Honors): Latin America- Reform and Revolution
  • HIST 293: Oaxaca Study Abroad- Mexican History and Culture
  • HIST 350: Aztecs, Incas, Mayas
  • HIST 439: History of Mexico
  • HIST 484: History Capstone: Race and Gender in Latin America
  • HIST 493: Native Latin America
  • HIST 729: Readings in Latin American History



Book Cover Stephens

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

“Women, Violence, and Legal Culture in Yucatán, Mexico, 1900-1930,” in progress. 


"Huichol Culture, 1930-Present," in progress

“Victims and Assailants: Women, Violence, and the Law in Yucatán, 1900-1915.” (Under revisions)

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

"Caste Wars of Yucatán,"  Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History, July 2017.   

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

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


West Virginia University Humanities Center Summer Fellowship, 2018.
Max Planck Institute for European Legal History fellowship, July-September, 2017
West Virginia Humanities Council Fellowship, 2017
Riggle Fellowship, Eberly College of Arts & Sciences, Summer 2015