Skip to main content

Skip page navigation

Department of American Studies College of Arts and Sciences

Beverly J. Stoeltje « Committee on NAIS

Picture of Beverly J. Stoeltje

Professor of Anthropology, Folklore & Ethnomusicology

Office: Student Building 238
Phone: 855-8014
E-mail: stoeltje at


A Professor of Anthropology and Folklore & Ethnomusicology at Indiana University, I am also affiliated faculty in African Studies, American Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender Studies, and the Russian and East European Institute. My current research centers on the anthropology of law as it relates to traditional courts and legal systems in West Africa. In particular, my interest in the institution of Chieftaincy in contemporary Ghana has led to a number of publications, including “Women, Language and Law”—a special issue I guest edited for Africa Today (2002, 49/1-2)—and a chapter on “Performing Litigation at the Queen Mother's Court,” in Access to Justice: The Role of Court Administrators and Lay Adjudicators in the African and Islamic Contexts (2002, ed. Jones-Pauly and Elbern, 1-22). A chapter in Queens, Queen Mothers, Priestesses, and Power (1997; ed. Kaplan, 41-71) explores female authority within the Asante system of chieftaincy.
My work has also examined the role of narrative in legal proceedings; in 1997, for instance, I published “Narrative and Negotiation: A Woman's Case in the Queen Mother's Court in Ghana” in Sovereignty, Legitimacy and Power in West African Societies (ed. Zips and van Rouveroy van Nieuwaal, 172-90), and a 2009 article in Research in African Literature suggests the roles legal procedure and traditional religion play when conflict is narrated in Asante.

I’ve also explored the ways social hierarchies and national identities are negotiated in ritual and festival genres such as beauty pageants and American rodeo. Representative work in this area includes Beauty Queens on the Global Stage: Gender, Contests and Power (co-edited with Colleen Cohen and Rick Wilk, Routledge 1995), “Power and the Ritual Genres: American Rodeo”—an article published in Western Folklore (1993, 52:135-56)—and “Riding, Roping, and Reunion: Cowboy Festival,” in Time Out of Time: Essays on the Festival (ed. Alessandro Falassi, UNM Press, 137-51).

Gender, ritual, legal anthropology, and nationalism, then, are my primary areas of expertise. My research has been supported by institutions that include the Fulbright-Hays Program, the School of American Research, and the United States Information Agency.

Relevant Courses

  • E200: Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • E394: Stories and Stereotypes
  • E675: Law and Culture

Publication Highlights

2009. Asante Traditions and Female Self-Assertion: Sister Abena’s Narrative. Research in African Literatures 40/1:27-41.

2009. Region: United States.  In The Encyclopedia of Women’s Folklore and Folklife, ed. Liz Locke, Theresa Vaughan, and Pauline Greenhill. Greenwood Press.

2009. Beauty Contests.  In The Encyclopedia of Women’s Folklore and Folklife, ed. Liz Locke, Theresa Vaughan, and Pauline Greenhill. Greenwood Press.
2006. The Performance of Litigation. Research Review. New Series, 22/1. Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.

2004. Queen Mothers in African Societies. In African Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. Philip Peek and Kwesi Yankah. New York: Routledge.

2004. Gender in African Folklore. In African Folklore: An  Encyclopedia, ed. Philip Peek and Kwesi Yankah. New York:  Routledge. With Okello Ogwang. 

2003. Asante Queenmothers: Precolonial Authority in a Postcolonial Society. Research Review. New Series, 19/2:1-19. Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.