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.
Maya culture, language in culture, discourse, cognition and communication, shamanism, the logic of anthropological inquiry, anthropology of literature.