Beverly Stoeltje

Beverly Stoeltje

Professor Emerita, Folklore

Professor Emerita, Anthropology


  • Ph.D., University of Texas, 1979
  • M.A., University of Texas, 1973
  • B.S., University of Texas, 1961

About Beverly Stoeltje

Beverly Stoeltje is the quintessential international and interdisciplinary scholar. She began her teaching in the Department of English at the University of Texas at Austin after completing her Ph.D. in anthropology there in 1979. In 1986 she joined the faculty of Indiana University in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, and later shifted to the Department of Communication and Culture. Ultimately—and happily—she found her home in the Department of Anthropology, where she has mentored many international as well as domestic students and carried out research in different cultures.

She has brought her boundless energy to all facets of departmental life. To quote one of her students: “Secretly I believe that Professor Stoeltje must have more days in her weeks to overlay her research, teaching, and service work without slighting any of them.” Working tirelessly, she has chaired search committees, tenure committees, a symposium committee entitled “Rethinking Race,” served as director of graduate studies, mentored junior faculty, and contributed in a wide range of capacities as a valuable department member.

The study of festival as it relates to social and political issues has been among the prominent foci of Beverly’s research. Influenced by the work of Victor Turner, Kenneth Burke, and other students of ritual, festival, and performance, when she entered graduate school she turned to her native West Texas for her dissertation research and produced a study of the four-day Texas Cowboy Reunion. From that work she has published articles on rodeo in American culture, including several widely cited articles on women in the West. In 1989, in conjunction with the IU African Studies Program, she launched her research in Ghana by establishing a United States Information Agency project on performance, linking Indiana University scholars with colleagues at the University of Ghana.

Her innovative African research began with a focus on Asante queen mothers and chieftaincy. The study of conflict and attendance in the Asante courts expanded her interest to the anthropology of law, resulting in an analytical perspective that she labels “performing litigation.” Finding that indigenous forms are embedded in politics as well as everyday life, Beverly also focuses on the complex relationship between modernity and custom in Asante culture. She has published her erudite scholarship in respected journals in the fields of folklore, anthropology, and African Studies; in book chapters; and in numerous reference works.

Beverly’s interest in gender and public performance also led to her research on beauty pageants. She co-edited a book, Beauty Queens on the Global Stage, the first serious cross-cultural study of beauty pageants, which has had broad influence. Her own contribution, entitled “The Snake Charmer Queen,” analyzes beauty pageants based on a study of one held at a Rattlesnake Roundup in West Texas. She has contributed entries to reference works on beauty pageants as well.

Beverly’s research has consistently focused ethnographic and theoretical attention on events and circumstances that are largely undocumented by scholars yet significant in the lives of particular peoples. She has been supported by funding from prestigious programs, including a Fulbright-Hays Research Scholar Grant and an American Research Weatherhead Fellowship (in Santa Fe, New Mexico).

Her boundless energy and broad vision have led her to hold several conferences on the IU campus, two of them on the subject “Women, Language, and Law in Africa,” which attracted international scholars to IU. Subsequently, she launched the plan for an international symposium on legal pluralism in Africa and Latin America, jointly sponsored by African Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and the Maurer School of Law.

Beverly is noted for the critical and challenging scope of her classes, especially her graduate course, Performing Nationalism, and for her commitment to mentoring students. Some students claim that her mentoring has changed the course of their scholarly vision and their professional lives. Students have found their way to her from departments throughout the campus; and today many are pursuing academic careers in universities in Singapore, Korea, Botswana, Turkey, Uganda, South Africa, Israel, Hawaii, Canada, and, of course, the United States. Through her graceful mentorship, her intellectual generosity, and her deep intellectual and moral integrity, she has inspired graduates and undergraduates alike to pursue their scholarly dreams.

Not only has she influenced students at Indiana University, she has been invited to teach as a visitor at Bogazici University in Istanbul, at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and at New York University, where her persuasive abilities have challenged students to explore and reconfigure their perspectives.

Equally significant, she has been invited to deliver lectures and has presented conference papers in Ghana, Senegal, Argentina, Brazil, Israel, China, Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Germany, Canada, and numerous places in the United States.

Beverly’s passion for justice, a strongly held belief in higher education, and a deep caring for friends, colleagues, and students motivate her extensive involvement in the scholarly endeavor. Her presence will truly be missed in all domains of our departmental life.

-Paula Girshick


Children's Handclaps
Children's Handclaps

Informal Learning in Play

Beverly Stoeltje

Publication highlights