|Gary Urton (l) and Luis Jaime Castillo (r) at San José de Moro, 2013|
The man on the left in this photo is Gary Urton, a noted anthropologist at Harvard University. Urton is a widely recognized expert in Andean cultural and intellectual history, focusing on the pre-Columbian and early colonial periods. He is particularly well known for his work in decoding the Inka recording device, known as the khipu.
On May 29, The Harvard Crimson named Urton and two other Harvard anthropologists in a report on the paper's eight month investigation into sexual harassment in the anthropology department. The investigation was conducted by Crimson student reporter James Bikales. Soon afterwards, numerous members of Urton's department called for his resignation, and Harvard has now put him on leave pending its own investigation.
The man on the right is Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, a powerful and well-known Peruvian archaeologist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) who received his PhD at UCLA in 2012. Castillo, who was briefly Peru's Minister of Culture, is also an international member of the US National Academy of Sciences and a former grantee of the National Geographic Society.
Castillo is also a close associate of Urton's, over many years. The two men have helped each other out on numerous occasions. For example, Castillo has been invited as a visiting professor at Harvard, and Urton was until very recently an honorary professor at PUCP. They have worked together at Castillo's signature archaeological site, San Jose de Moro. Indeed, when Science magazine reported the allegations against Urton, its reporter quoted Castillo as a sort of character witness. "...until last week, [Urton] was one of the most respected researchers in the world," Castillo said. Castillo added that "In all field work trips, there has been no incident, no complaints."
But Castillo no longer seems happy with reports about his close association with Urton. The photo above was published in early June by the Peruvian publication Mano Alzada ("Raised Hand"), as part of an article about the close ties between Urton, Castillo, and PUCP. The article included a number of additional indications of the Urton-Castillo relationship. But when Peruvian scholars began to post the story on social media, Castillo had his attorney issue cease and desist letters against them (at least five such letters have gone out, to my knowledge.) And very recently, Castillo's attorney has threatened to bring legal action against this journalist for reporting credible sexual misconduct allegations against Castillo himself.
The allegations against Castillo are very serious. The include serial sexual relationships with students he was directly supervising over many years; bullying and retaliation; severe sexist attitudes, comments, and sexual harassment; and sexual exploitation of students who worked at San Jose de Moro.
I will lay out the allegations against Castillo in detail below. But first, let's delve into the world of Andean archaeology and its abuses, which provides the context for all of the above.
Andean archaeology, rife with abuses.
|Peruvian archaeologist Enmanuel Gomez Choque|
I first became involved with reporting on abuses in Andean archaeology, and specifically misconduct that had taken place in Peru, when a group of researchers alerted me that University of California, Santa Barbara archaeologist Danielle Kurin was returning to teaching and research at the university after a three year administrative leave. The leave was a result of her being found in a Title IX proceeding to have retaliated against students who reported sexual harassment by her partner and later husband, Enmanuel Gomez Choque. The harassment (along with sexual assaults by Gomez) took place at Kurin's field school at archaeological sites in and near the Peruvian city of Andahuaylas, and the researchers were very concerned that yet more students would be put in danger.
I reported on these allegations earlier this year. My report almost immediately led to a new group of students getting in touch with me about serious events, including sexual assault by Gomez again, that took place at Kurin's 2018 field school in Peru. My reporting on these later events had a number of knock on effects, including the termination of the head of the Institute for Field Research, which had sponsored Kurin's 2018 field school. As many readers of this blog will know, Kurin has now sued me for defamation, demanding $18 million in damages--a completely bogus action that I intend to defend against vigorously on freedom of the press grounds (also the grounds that I stand by my reporting.)
With the Urton revelations, it became more clear that the small world of Andean archaeology had endemic problems involving sexual harassment and other abuses of students. Shortly after the Crimson article was published, a new witness, Jade d'Alpoim Guedes, came forward to relate that she had been propositioned by Urton in almost exactly the same way as a victim described in Bikales' reporting. Guedes later gave interviews to both the Crimson and Science in which she elaborated on her experiences.
"I will no longer be silent"
|The late John Janusek|
Several days after the revelations about Gary Urton were first published, a former graduate student at Vanderbilt University, Randi Stevens, posted on Facebook about a nearly three year long relationship she had had with the late John Janusek, a highly respected anthropologist and Andean archaeologist at the university (I am posting the Facebook link with permission.) "I will no longer be silent," Stevens wrote, and then proceeded to describe the relationship. Stevens related that Janusek had been abusive to her, and also apologized for having lied to colleagues about it. But, she added, "many of you, my friends and colleagues were silently complicit" in the inappropriate relationship. "I forgive," she added. "You were put in an awkward position. But, you did remain silent."
This matter is particularly sensitive at Vanderbilt, and in the larger anthropology community, because Janusek took his own life in October of last year. There have been some unfortunate, and I am told largely inaccurate, speculations about why he did so, and I want to express my condolences to his colleagues and my regrets that this issue has to be discussed in this report. But Randi Stevens was not the first student with whom Janusek had an affair, nor was she the last, and those who now see themselves as victims of misconduct have a right to have their voices heard.
"It should never have happened," Stevens wrote. He knew better and John was in the position of power. John hit on me. John initiated." She concludes her Facebook post with five phrases that the anthropology community could well take on board:
"TURN THEM IN
NO MORE WHISPER NETWORKS
NO MORE PUBLIC SECRETS"
Luis Jaime Castillo Butters
|Luis Jaime Castillo Butters|
On June 2, just a few days after The Harvard Crimson broke the Urton story, I was contacted by a member of a women's collective organized to counter abuses in archaeology, especially in Peru. The core group numbers about 15 members at the time of this writing, including scholars from Peru, North America, and elsewhere. The collective is bolstered by a growing number of other supporters around the world currently numbering in the hundreds.
The member of this collective, a professor, first approached me and told me about Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, former Minister of Culture of Peru and currently elected member of the U.S.'s National Academy of Sciences, describing him as "perhaps the most powerful Peruvian archaeologist" (if not the most powerful.) This professor related that he was not only "a known sexual harasser" who carried on relationships with students but was also well known for being "extremely vindictive and political." The implication was that no one dared to cross him, at least until now. This colleague, an archaeologist, put me in touch with other sources, who in turn introduced me to still others. Still others approached me independently after I made some social media posts about Castillo's alleged misconduct, and more victims, survivors, and witnesses are getting in touch each week.
What follows is based on direct testimony from survivors and other witnesses, as well as corroborative statements from sources who were told about the abuses at or near the time they happened. As always in my reporting, I do not rely on rumors or second hand information. Nevertheless, the sources for this story have chosen to remain unnamed, for obvious reasons. For clarification, not all members of the collective mentioned above are quoted here, and not all of those quoted below are members of this collective.
Castillo has proven his reputation for retaliation by threatening pretty much any colleague in Peru who speaks out about him, as well as this reporter, with legal action. It's no wonder that survivors of abuse are so hesitant to come forward.
It's hard to date when Castillo first began having sexual relationships with students. But this behavior goes back at least to 2003, when Castillo had already started working at San Jose de Moro. According to another source, Castillo had at least two affairs with students while married to his first wife, according to sources who were direct witnesses to the relationships. One was with a student from the University of Trujillo. The other was a French PhD student who was doing her dissertation research in Lima, Peru's capital. The witnesses to these affairs, who worked at San Jose de Moro themselves, also relate that one of Castillo's signature behaviors--encouraging students to drink to excess and constantly commenting on women's bodies--also dates from at least the beginning of the 2000s. Following Castillo's lead, other individuals on his projects at San Jose de Moro and other sites behaved in similar ways, creating a deeply sexist culture that endures to the present day.
"These behaviors have become normal and normalized, expected and encouraged" in Andean archaeology, says one researcher who worked at San Jose de Moro over a number of years.
Castillo is known to have assisted with the placement of Peruvian students, many who worked under him for a number of years, in top-tier graduate archaeology programs in the United States. A few of my Peruvian sources allege that Castillo tells young students that if they want to attend major universities abroad, like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, he can make it happen if they work for him.
Witnesses allege that Castillo has carried on a longstanding sexual relationship with one such student. This student and his other former students doe not wish to talk about the situation, so I am not naming her to protect her privacy. However, Castillo routinely referred to this student as "mi mujer" ("my woman"), sometimes even to archaeologists who do not know him very well.
Let's now move to some individual, personal stories from students who have worked with Castillo over the years. I will identify them with letters and wish to clarify that the students referred to below are not the same people referenced above. To protect identities as best as possible, I am not including the years the following episodes took place; all of them post-date 2005 and continue until at least the recent past, however.
Student A is a Latina scholar from the United States. While a graduate student at a US university, she became interested in some of the cultural artifacts of an early Andean culture, and traveled to Peru to work at San Jose de Moro at the suggestion of several advisors, who told her that she would have to work with Castillo if she wanted to become an Andean archaeologist.
"I started witnessing a lot of inappropriate behavior and a culture of toxic masculinity reproduced at all levels," she says. "Everyone was sleeping with everyone else, excessive drinking was the norm, and affiliated professors knew about this and cosigned on this behavior." But two aspects of the culture at the archaeological site particularly bothered her: Castillo frequently commented that the women on the site, including her, should wear less clothes while excavating; and the ways in which Peruvian workers were treated by both Peruvian and American archaeologists working there.
Student A also remembers that a LGBTQIA+ Peruvian student felt particularly targeted by Castillo. The student told her about Castillo's derogatory comments and behavior towards him, mocking him mercilessly and encouraging the other archaeologists to do the same.
Student A confronted other professors and teaching assistants at San Jose de Moro about the general culture promoted on the site. As a result, she says, Castillo retaliated against her and tried to blackball her from working in the country. He told several Andean archaeologists that she was a "troublemaker" and not collaborative in the field. After recognizing that this kind of problematic behavior was endemic to archaeology, she decided to leave the profession and pursue other goals.
"None of what I am sharing with you is a secret," Student A told me. "This is all common knowledge."
Another member of the women's collective explains that Castillo has the power to blackball students and even more senior colleagues, and regularly makes use of it. "We were told this is the person you need to impress and make happy. If you wanted to do anything in Peru, he is the only door."
Professor A was one of Student A's advisors at the university where she attended graduate school. In a telephone conversation in early June, Professor A backed up the above account, telling me that Student A reported all these events to her at the time. "She fought for a long time" to stay in archaeology, the professor says, but ultimately it was futile. "After her second season with Castillo was really when she decided she had enough. She was really upset. She was so excited to go on an archaeology dig. She couldn't stop crying, she couldn't believe that this was the way that archaeology worked."
Student B worked at San Jose de Moro for several years, including the time that Student A was there. She witnessed all of the episodes that Student A relates above, including Castillo's constant sexism and the homophobic mocking of the LGBTIQIA+ student, and the poor treatment of Peruvian workers. She says that she was approached on several occasions by workers asking her to advocate to Castillo on their behalf because they feared retaliation from him and his crew. Although Student B says that she was not the target of intense sexual harassment by Castillo outside of comments about her body and weight and suggestions to wear less clothing, he did cause her some problems that made her work difficult and put obstacles in the way of her obtaining her PhD (to avoid identifying Student B, I am not specifying what those problems were, other than that they indicated vindictive conduct on the part of Castillo.)
Professor B is a member of the women's collective who has known both Student A and Student B for a number of years. Professor B confirms that the two students told her about Castillo's conduct, including the specific episodes related above, soon after they happened. Professor B discussed with me how Castillo became so powerful in Peru in the first place.
"His early connections to US academia, being one of the few Peruvian graduate students in the US at the time, helped him gain power. He cultivated those foreign relationships [for example with Gary Urton at Harvard] and sought out powerful and well-known people in the US to ingratiate himself to." Professor B adds: "Using his powers of access, he is able to draw young archaeologists into his orbit, promising them a future in archaeology."
Student C is a former Peruvian archaeology student who worked at San Jose de Moro only one year. During that time, she told me, Castillo persistently pressured her to go to bed with him, promising her openly that she would be given more responsibility on the dig site if she would do so. Student C rebuffed Castillo, albeit with great difficulty, because she did not feel comfortable telling other students or senior colleagues what was happening ("I was actually terrified," she told me.) Student C left archaeology soon afterwards and had told very few friends her story before she saw my social media posts.
Student D is a former student at the PUCP in Lima, where Castillo teaches. She is also Peruvian. Student D says that while Castillo did not pressure her to sleep with him, he persistently flirted with her--sometimes even in class--and tried to get her to "have a drink" with him outside of class. Student D did have one drink with Castillo, she says, but then managed to avoid him thereafter.
Student E is another US student who worked at San Jose de Moro around the time that Students A and B did. Castillo "really knows how to use his power and how to scare people," she says, referring to Castillo's current legal threats against witnesses as well as his past behavior.
Student E, who describes herself as "a cute white girl," says that she and other female students often wore as little clothes as they felt was decent because of the extreme heat while excavating, often well over 100 degrees F. But Castillo would often urge them to wear even less. One day, she says, she was excavating in shorts and a sports bra when Castillo came up to tell her that some representatives of an organization that was considering giving the project a grant were visiting that day. "I need you to wear that outfit," Student E says Castillo told her, adding that she did what she was told.
On other occasions, Student E says, Castillo would ask her to dress up and dance with male visitors, dignitaries and other notables, who came to San Jose de Moro. "He would also ask me to sit with the men at dinner or lunch and even accompany him to other parties to help entertain," she says.
"I was used as an escort," Student E says. "I was never aggressed, but he pimped me out. He used me in really inappropriate ways." Student E now says that she feels very guilty about what she agreed to do but felt like she had to do it to get ahead, and feels that she was partly to blame for what happened by using it to her advantage and not resisting Castillo's demands.
In addition to the blatant sexual exploitation and retaliatory behavior exemplified in the testimonies above, numerous sources told me about other examples of abuses of power on Castillo's part.
In 2009, for example, Castillo and an American colleague were appointed as co-editors of the journal Latin American Antiquity, published by the Society for American Archaeology (SAA.) After a short time, some archaeologists began to suspect that Castillo was using biased approaches to the peer review process. SAA appointed a small committee, kept secret from all but a handful of individuals (even from the journal's editorial board.) According to an SAA member intimately familiar with what happened, an inquiry found that Castillo was indeed favoring or disfavoring certain researchers and institutions, and he was eased out of the position over the following year (the better to cover the reasons for his removal.)
I also talked to a former student who had been in one of Castillo's classes at PUCP in 2013, when Castillo was vice-minister of culture. "He missed classes a lot in PUCP because due to his travels abroad," the former student told me. "He threatened the class not to complain to the faculty, because if we wanted someday to go outside to do a postgraduate degree, we would need his signature."
Says one North American archaeologist who has worked in Peru for more than a decade: "Luis Jaime's abuses of power have been known to all of us. It is to our shame that none of us have brought it to light until now."
As a result of the allegations concerning Castillo, Urton, and other professors at PUCP, a number of student organizations and other activists in Peru have issued statements condemning sexual harassment and other forms of misconduct. As I mentioned earlier, Castillo, through his attorney, has directly threatened colleagues who speak ill of him, including me. Below I am pasting the letter I received threatening legal action against me--which gives me 24 hours to delete everything I have said about Castillo on social media--followed by some comment from a few colleagues.
Lima, 23 de junio de 2020
I have not arranged for an English translation of this letter, although I hope to do so for an update on this reporting. Among other sins, the attorney, Raul Canelo, accuses me of having a colonial attitude towards what goes on in Peruvian and Andean archaeology. Some members of the women's collective, who asked to remain anonymous so they too do not get legal threats, prepared the following responses and asked me to post them. I am happy to do so.
Commenter No. 1:
“I find it unsurprising yet ironic that Castillo now deploys the language of U.S. colonial
intervention when he, himself, has been a colonial presence in the field of archaeology. While
working with him on numerous occasions, I heard him referring to local communities in Peru as
'provinciales,' a hugely violent and derogatory word in Peru to racially refer to Indigenous,
non-white populations. It’s really quite comical that Castillo now claims to be a victim of
colonialism, when he himself is white-privileged in Peru.
While in the field, Castillo would routinely take advantage of his power by gaining entry onto
private property in the Jequetepeque Valley by claiming he had a right to do so as Minister of
Culture. He did so before he was even appointed Vice Minister of Culture or Minister of Culture.
He had no respect for the rights of the landowners and wielded his power as he saw fit.
Men like Castillo will use any method they can to silence people in opposition to him -
especially women. Peruvian women have been victims of his predatory practices for a long time,
and his invocation of racism is meant to obfuscate the very real concerns we have with his
sexism and sexual harassment. This is, sadly, a classic example of an anthropologist using his
anthropological training selectively to intimidate witnesses and silence women. Perhaps he has
forgotten that white supremacy is alive and well globally, and that he himself has benefitted from
it as a man with European ancestry (which he happily shares with students).”
Commenter No. 2:
“The letter unfortunately aligns with a common modus operandi in how people often are
threatened or criticism is silenced. Invoking colonialism against a North American journalist is
mirrored by invoking “white” imperial legal traditions in ways that could look intimidating to
Peruvians who are considering coming forward. The Roman and Germanic legal traditions are
actually a study in contrasts, as any legal scholar or student of law knows. Invoking “Roman,
Germanic, French legal traditions,” as if they were one, is rooted in a vague white imperialism.
As an outside observer with no previous professional connection to Castillo, I cannot help but
note that many of privileged backgrounds in Peru invoke their “Peruvianness” to North
Americans, and their “elite” white status to fellow Peruvians. We have to remember the people
whose lives are most destroyed by abuses of power within Peru: Peruvian women and Peruvians
of indigenous descent from the ‘provinces.’”
Commenter No. 3:
Castillo, is a wealthy white man who has benefited from his whiteness and his social class
throughout his life; and has benefited from this privilege through education, his academic career
and in his social and political status. He does not occupy a position of powerlessness.
Throughout his whole life, he has been privileged to attend well known and prestigiously
wealthy educational institutions such as Escuela Inmaculado Corazón and Colegio Santa María
Marianistas, in the K-12 system, and Universities such as Pontificia Universidad Católica del
Perú for his bachelor's degree; and the well recognized University of California - Los Angeles
for his Masters and Doctoral degrees.
Castillo is not a powerless Peruvian nor a powerless man in this world. He has been a part of the
Board of Directors of the Society for American Archaeology, taught in numerous institutions
around the world, such as Harvard, Stanford, Lund, and Bordeaux; creating a set of international
networks that give him much power in Perú. This power, as well as his archaeological prestige,
led him to be the Viceminister of Culture Patrimony and Culture Industries in 2013 and Minister
of Culture in 2019.
His archaeological work has been financed by many different institutions, mostly the University
where he works in Peru (PUCP) and Harvard University in the United States. Other financial
support he has received include Grupo Backus, Peru’s largest beer company, and National
Geographic. These things combined demonstrate that Castillo is not a powerless man, and his
privilege and position in Andean Archaeology are proof of that. Luis Jaime Castillo also forgets
about the intersectionality of his position in this world. Even though this is an international
matter it does not automatically imply a colonial dynamic where he is being oppressed; rather, it
demonstrates that he is using his own colonial power to silence the testimonies of women that
have started to share their stories.
Commenter No. 4:
“By appropriating the narratives and concepts used to fight for social justice, Castillo’s letter is
itself a clear act of colonialism in the intersection of theory and practice. We need to be aware,
ring the bell, and be very conscious of what Castillo means when he puts himself forward as a
powerless male victim of colonial actions and forces. What does he mean when he uses the
historical language used and proposed by brave people who have fought and given their lives to
call out power structures? Is he conscious that in his life, as many people have witnessed, he has
been focused on disempowering people for his own benefit and accumulation? Is he, for the first
time, feeling vulnerable as a white Peruvian and wealthy man, by the accusations of powerless
women? Is this the first time he feels that structures he built are threatening him?
We cannot let this letter and chosen language be accepted as an innocent appeal. It needs to be
placed into context. The reality is that many Peruvians that have felt his multiple avenues of
intimidation - from his body language, his connections with government officials, by his
academic presence, by his judgmental approach (which includes “favors” to others and anger
toward his “enemies”), by his wealthy life that he likes to show off so much, by his “important”
contacts with elite universities where he can get you in or not, by his predatory behaviour. All of
this makes him a white man in Perú and internationally, a status that he himself has worked so
hard to achieve. He is not a victim of colonial power structures; instead he is witnessing how the
power structure has cracked (not completely, but a little bit). As someone who is used to being
on top, he is feeling – perhaps for the first time – vulnerable.”
This is quite obviously an ongoing story, and I will be updating it as time goes on. But it seems clear that Andean archaeology, like other specialties in archaeology and anthropology and the wider academic world beyond, are still in the early stages of ending the abuses that force vulnerable young researchers to either leave their chosen fields or make compromises they come to regret later. We are not at the beginning of this fight, but still not very close to the end of it.
Update: Translation of the letter from Castillo's attorney threatening legal action (with thanks to the translator.)
"I hereby communicate to you on behalf of my client, Dr Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, written notification that we are initiating legal proceedings against you, for the offences of libel and aggravated defamation, based on the false statements that you made against my client via publications appearing on your Twitter account and other social media under your control.
A lot of this news has just been reported by the Peruvian publication Mano Alzada ("Raised Hand") in Spanish. Mano Alzada has been out in front of this story despite legal threats from Castillo against anyone who amplifies their stories on social media.
Update July 2: Castillo's PhD at UCLA.
In the comments section below, there has been some discussion of the circumstances under which Luis Jaime Castillo received his PhD at UCLA in 2012. I have not delved into this in any detail, and so I cannot make any comment on it as a reporter. In fairness, however, I did ask Charles Stanish, who was director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA at that time, to comment on the allegations that there were irregularities or favored treatment. I am reproducing his comments in full here. If anyone has information that contradicts this account, they can contact me privately or make new comments below.
Update July 2, 2020: Is a Peruvian publication covering for Castillo?
A very interesting thing happened today. The Peruvian publication Peru21 posted a story about the accusations against Castillo, largely giving his denials of them (they did link to this blog post, however.) In the original version, which I saw along with several others I have been in contact with, Castillo refers to the student he allegedly referred to as "mi mujer" and correctly named the institution where she studies (a major US university.) Soon afterwards, either he or someone else must have realized that he was essentially outing her, which I did not do out of respect for her privacy (even though I know her identity.) The text was changed from the name of the university to an unnamed institution in the USA.
This is interesting for two reasons. First, Peru21 has now helped correct Castillo's clumsy mistake of outing the student by omitting the name of the student's institution, no matter whose idea it was. Second, Castillo has now essentially admitted that he called the student "mi mujer," thus confirming that he did have a sexual relationship with a student he sponsored for a postgraduate program.
Castillo's accusations that I harassed the student are false. I contact her once, and when she did not respond, I contacted her one last time, as per journalistic convention. She had a communications person at the university she is associated contact me to say she did not want to talk to me, which is of course her right. I did not try to contact her again.
In conclusion: I tried to protect the identity of this student by not naming her institution, although Castillo's colleagues know who she is. Castillo, in his haste to defend himself against the accusations, outed her.
Further update July 3: With the help of an internet sleuth and the Wayback machine, we have been able to figure out what happened re the above issue of identifying the institution of the student being referred to. The Peru21 was first posted online on July 1, not July 2. On July 1, changes were made to the original post, which would have included deleting the specific name of the institution and substituting that she was from an institution in the USA. As I said above, Castillo named the student's institution; someone spotted it (him, the student, a third party?) and had it changed. Castillo outed the student. End of story.
Update July 4: Faculty of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) express their concerns about the misconduct allegations against Luis Jaime Castillo Butters.
The Facebook group Se acabó el silencio - Derecho PUCP has posted a statement about the charges against Castillo, which is garnering many signatures among PUCP faculty. Here is the original text in Spanish, followed by an English translation. This case is creating a major stir in Peru, as academics and students alike see an opening in the crack of toxic patriarchy that has ruled academia in that country for so long. (With thanks to the translators/activists who participated in making this available.)