Jonas A. "Steine" Jonasson Endowed Lecture Series


Carlos Castaneda, Anthropology and the Construction of a Magical Mexico

Streaming Media

Document Type

Video File


1 hour 13 minutes 14 seconds

Publication Date



American Literature | Anthropology | History | Latin American History | Literature in English, North America | New Religious Movements


In this filmed lecture, Dr. Ageeth Sluis (associate professor of Latin American history at Butler University) discusses her research on American author Carlos Castaneda. In 1960, Castaneda found himself eye to eye with Juan Matus, a "Yaqui shaman," in a bus station in the border town of Nogales, Arizona. Castaneda, then a graduate student in anthropology at the University of California-Los Angeles, met "Don Juan" because he sought an informant on the indigenous use of psychotropic plants. Castaneda supposedly got more than he bargained for when he became the shaman's apprentice. Describing the "separate realities" of a secret indigenous world, Castaneda's first three books (beginning with The Teachings of Don Juan) became international bestsellers and propelled Castaneda into the world of fame and notoriety.

Sluis explores how Castaneda's work provides a unique window on a series of related phenomena: the rise of a New Left, counterculture spirituality, a politicization of anthropology, new understandings of indigenous identity, and the creation of a magical Mexico.


Sponsored by the Jonas A. "Steine" Jonasson Endowed Lecture Fund.