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Michael Hesson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Instruction in Anthropology
Office telephone: 215-204-0538
Michael Hesson received his A.B. with honors in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 1993. He received his Ph.D. in Linguistic and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. After graduating, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania in the School of Arts and Sciences, in the Wharton School of Business, as well as at Temple University in the Department of Anthropology.
My research investigates the process by which time, typically considered universal and homogenous, is recast as lived, social time—inherently particular and invested with local meanings. The research examines Yucatec Maya speakers in the village of Betania, Quintana Roo, México. Using a combination of historical analysis, participant observation, and structured and unstructured interviews, as well as grammatical and discursive investigations of genres of Yucatec Maya writing and speech, my Ph.D. thesis traced the development of current Betanian temporal metaculture. Through an analysis of the Conquest of México and the major contemporary religious and politico-economic structures of temporality, as well as the competing discourses surrounding the Daylight Saving Time debate, the thesis shows that time is always constructed out of relationships that index and are indexed by specific socio-historical constellations. Thus time is inherently semiotic, and particularly deictic. The thesis concluded by arguing that the significance of this research for anthropology lies in a deeper appreciation of the semiotic constraints on temporality, while the importance to philosophical inquiry is in sketching an ethnographically nuanced indexical relation between Being and Time.
My current research is grounded in my recent fieldwork and has two distinct components. My first area of interest is examining the role of lived social time in constructing Yucatec identities outside of the village environment. Returning to Mérida, with the support of the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán and others, I would like to examine temporal metaculture in an urban environment. Related to this, I also plan to carry out similar research in diasporic Yucatecan communities in the USA. My second area of interest is to develop and publish a theoretical understanding of pitch and accent in Yucatec Maya.
2005 La Calle de los Niños (Series: Antropo-visiones). Visual Anthropology Review 21(1-2):170a-172.
2005 Artes y Oficios Mexicanos (Series: Antropo-visiones). Visual Anthropology Review 21(1-2):170b-172.
2006 Henri Bergson. In Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Vol. 1. H. J. Birx, ed. Pp. 343-344. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
2006 Time in Anthropology. In Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Vol. 5. H. J. Birx, ed. Pp. 2197-2200. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
2006 Ethnohistory. In Encyclopedia of Anthropology. Vol. 2. H. J. Birx, ed. Pp. 854-857. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
In preparation: "The 'Now' of Mayaness: Time, Identity, and Cultural Deixis" for a special issue of the journal Pragmatics.
Areas of current research: The anthropology of time, specifically Yucatec Maya temporal metaculture, Franciscan grammars of Yucatec Maya in the colonial period, phonology of Yucatec Maya.