Maya culture, language in culture, discourse, cognition and communication, shamanism, the logic of anthropological inquiry, anthropology of literature.
William F. Hanks studies the history and ethnography of Yucatan, Mexico, and Yucatec Maya language and culture, including early modern Spain and Spanish as a necessary step towards understanding the colonial formation of Yucatan and New Spain. He examines the organization and dynamics of routine language use (semantics, pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics and the social foundations of speech practices). He has studied ritual practice, comparative shamanisms, and the relations between religion and health care in rural Mexico. His most recent work concerns the colonial history of Yucatan and New Spain, with a special emphasis on missionization and the emergence of colonial discourse genres.
I received my Ph.D. in Linguistics and Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1983, and remained on the faculty of both departments from 1983 to 1996, when I was appointed Professor of Anthropology and Milton H. Wilson Professor of the Humanities, at Northwestern University. In July 2000 I joined Cal as the Berkeley Distinguished Chair Professor in Linguistic Anthropology. I have been a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Science Sociales (1988, 1992), the University of Paris X (1995), the University of Copenhagen (1996, 1999), the Casa de America, Madrid (1993, 1999) and the International Center for Semiotic and Cognitive Studies, San Marino (1998). My work is resolutely interdisciplinary and international.
The empirical basis of my research has been the history and ethnography of Yucatan Mexico, where I have conducted about 30 months of fieldwork and archival research. My speciality is Yucatec Maya language and culture and all of my fieldwork has been conducted in Maya language. I have become increasingly interested in early modern Spain and Spanish as a necessary step towards understanding the colonial formation of Yucatan and New Spain.
My work is oriented towards three areas, and the theoretical frameworks needed to understand them. The first is the organization and dynamics of routine language use (semantics, pragmatics, interactional sociolinguistics and the social foundations of speech practices). Here I have been particularly concerned with how people make reference to, describe and orient themselves in space. My first book (1990) was a study of lived space in contemporary Maya interaction and the contribution of demonstratives and deictics to communicative practice. The second area in which I have done sustained fieldwork is shamanism. This began with an extended collaboration with a contemporary Maya shaman in Yucatan, and has led me to study ritual practice, comparative shamanisms, and the relations between religion and health care in rural Mexico. The third focus of my work is the colonial history of Yucatan and New Spain, with a special emphasis on missionization and the emergence of colonial discourse genres. The latter include a wide range of evangelical texts in Maya, the grammars, dictionaries and other analytic works by missionaries in Yucatan, as well as a substantial corpus of texts authored by native Maya speakers (notarial documents as well as so called 'indigenous genres'). Among the key concepts engaged in this work are translation, religious conversion, semantic change, discourse genres and social fields.
1999. William F. Hanks. Intertexts, Writings on Language, Utterance and Context. Denver: Rowman and Littlefield.
1995. William F. Hanks. Language and Communicative Practices. Series Critical Essays in Anthropology. M. Bloch, P. Bourdieu and JL Comaroff, eds. Boulder: Westview Press.
1990. William F. Hanks. Referential Practice, Language and Lived Space among the Maya. Excerpt, "Ritual Transpositions of the Domestic Field," pp. 335-49. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.
1990. William F. Hanks and Don S. Rice eds. Word and Image in Mayan Culture, Explorations in Language, Writing and Representation, Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.
2000 "The Five Gourds of Memory" In Intertexts: Writings on Language, Utterance, and Context. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.: Lanham. pp. 197-217.
2000. Dialogic conversions and the field of missionary discourse in Colonial Yucatan. In Les Rituels du Dialogue. A. Monod Becquelin and Philippe Erikson, eds. Pp. 235-254. Nanterre: Societe d'Ethnologie.
1996. Commentiaire sur les Etudes Americanistes et l'Anthropologie (in French). In Le Nouveau Monde, Mondes Nouveaux: L'Experience Americaine. Editions Recherches sur les Civilizations, EHESS. Paris. Pp. 667-72.
1996. Exorcism and the description of participant roles. In Natural Histories of Discourse. M. Silverstein and G. Urban, eds., pp. 160-220. The University of Chicago Press. All rights reserved.
1996. Language form and communicative practices. Papers from Wenner Gren Conference "Rethinking Linguistic Relativity." J. Gumperz and S. Levinson, eds. Pp. 232-270.
1993. Copresencia y alteridad en la practica ritual Maya. (Copresence and Alterity in Maya ritual practice.) In De Palabra y Obra en le Nuevo Mundo. M. L. Portilla, M. G. Estevez, G. Gossen, and J. J. Klor de Alva, eds. Volume 3. Pp. 75-117. Madrid: Siglo XXI de Espana Editores, S.A.
1993. Notes on Semantics in Linguistic Practice. In Towards a Reflexive Sociology: the Social Theory of Pierre Bourdieu. C. Calhoun and M. Postone, eds. Pp. 139-155. Oxford Basil Blackwell. [Reprinted in Masters of Social Thought: Pierre Bourdieu. London: Sage Publications, In Press.]
1992. The Indexical Ground of Deictic Reference. In Rethinking Context, Language as an Interactive Phenomenon. A. Duranti and C. Goodwin, eds. Pp. 43-77. Cambridge University Press. [Reprinted from Papers from the Parasession on Language in Context. Chicago Linguistic Society, 1989]. [Reprinted in Italian translation as La base indessicale del riferimento deittico, in Introduzione alla linguistica antropologica (a cura di Barbara Turchette). Milano: Mursia Editore SpA. Pp. 209-246.]
1992. L'Intertextualite de l'espace au Yucatan. 1992. L'Homme (Paris). no. 122-124. Pp. 53-74.
1984. Sanctification, structure and experience in a Yucatec Maya ritual event. Journal of American Folklore, vol. 97, no. 384. 131-166.