Twice confirmed sexual harasser Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, archaeologist and former culture minister of Peru, uses his power and that of his university to retaliate against those who told the truth about him. An update on a grotesque #MeToo story. [Update: Court hearing is April 8] ][Updated April 4: Inst Andean Studies issues strong statement of support]]

The man pictured above, Luis Jaime Castillo Butters--former culture minister of Peru and current archaeology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) in Lima--has twice been found by key institutions with which he was affiliated to have committed sexual harassment of students. First, his own university upheld the allegations (which I first reported in June 2020), when PUCP's sexual harassment commission examined the evidence and found it to be highly credible. On that occasion, however, Castillo could not be disciplined or fired because the relevant anti-harassment policies were not in effect at the time he committed the abuses.

Then, last October, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, in which Castillo had been an international member, ousted him from the organization after its own investigation found him to have committed misconduct. During these events, Castillo has repeatedly threatened survivors of his abuse and other witnesses with defamation lawsuits, including this reporter (as of yet, he has taken no action against me, despite threats from his attorney that he would do so.)

However, Castillo, with the enabling and support of the PUCP, has begun to follow through on the threats. He has now sued a truth-teller, Lima-based anthropologist Marcela Poirier, for defamation. Castillo is asking the court to award him 200,000 Peruvian soles (about $50,000 U.S.) and to jail her for 30 months.

In her report on the action by the NAS, Science reporter Meredith Wadman described Poirier's role:

"Marcela Poirier, an anthropologist with a Ph.D. from Purdue University who worked for 1 year at a field school that Castillo Butters frequently visited, filed a complaint with NAS in the spring that included the PUCP commission’s report and asked the academy to oust Castillo Butters. Now a manager of cultural and educational resources in Lima, she told ScienceInsider today that NAS’s move 'sends the message that change is possible, and that justice—however imperfect—can be achieved.'"

(Note: Marcela Poirier was not one of my informants and was not one of the survivors I wrote about in my blog.)

As if that were not bad enough, Castillo's university, the PUCP, is threatening students who disseminated allegations on social media against Castillo and another professor accused of misconduct, Daniel Parodi, with suspension. (For Peruvian press reports, in Spanish, see here and here; and this Twitter thread which provides some visual details of the campaign against misconduct by faculty.)

And as if that were not bad enough, Peruvian police attacked students who were demonstrating outside the university, demanding that it take action (click link to see video.)

According to the Peruvian press reports, the complaints against Castillo and Parodi were shared on social media by student organizations, including the Federation of Students of the PUCP-FEPUC and the Federated Center of Letters. The site quoted 19 year old Adriana Verastegui, Gender Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Federated Center for General Studies: "We thought it important to alert other students about the public complaints against these professors." In retaliation, Castillo and Parodi reported her and others to PUCP officials for "defamation." Scarlett Huanis, another student denounced by both Castillo and Parodi, said: "It is not the first time that we have been forced to publicly demand more concrete actions from the university on issues of bullying and sexual harassment of female [students and teachers.]

La Republica/ Lucia Castro

I have not personally investigated the allegations against Parodi, so I will not say more about him here. But my reporting has found convincing evidence of significant misconduct, including harassment, bullying, and sleeping with students, against Castillo. After my first report, cited above, some of Castillo's supporters, along with a crew of sycophants who owed their careers to Peru's most powerful archaeologist, began attacking the survivors who had come forward as well as myself. The survivors bravely issued a letter defending their allegations, and I have written myself about the lies that Castillo's supporters have spread about them and my reporting.

In response to all of these allegations, and even to the NAS's decision to eject Castillo from its ranks--the first time the Academy has ever expelled an international member--the PUCP has done absolutely nothing to protect students from his abuses. Thus Castillo continues to teach his classes at PUCP.

(Castillo is still teaching; late word is that Parodi has now been removed from his classes)

The university gave the Peruvian publication La Republica its supposed reasons for not acting against Castillo:

"Por otro lado, en cuanto a las investigación que se realizó hacia los docentes denunciados en redes sociales, Ana Neyra señaló que las anteriores comisiones de investigación de la PUCP no pudieron encontrar ninguna prueba probatoria para sancionar al docente Luis Castillo, a pesar de que se cuenta con una investigación periodística y cinco testimonios de por medio en su contra."

Google translation:

"On the other hand, regarding the investigation that was carried out towards the teachers denounced in social networks, Ana Neyra [the PUCP's secretary of instruction] pointed out that the previous investigation commissions of the PUCP could not find any probative evidence to sanction the teacher Luis Castillo, despite the fact that he has a journalistic investigation and five testimonies against him."

(Note that this is not correct. The evidence against Castillo was indeed probative, according to the sexual harassment commission, but he got off essentially on a technicality.)

In addition, Castillo, who has long had an affiliation with Harvard, first formal and now informal, has recently been showing up at Zoom talks about Andean archaeology featuring Harvard professors, according to witnesses. His presence has reportedly caused a great deal of discomfort among many in the virtual audience.

What is to be done?

With a few notable exceptions, including of course the brave survivors of Castillo's abuses and truth-tellers like Marcela Poirier, the archaeology community has been pretty silent about all of these attacks on colleagues in Peru fighting against sexual misconduct and bullying. As I have reported, some archaeologists, including some based in the U.S., apparently not wanting to get on the wrong side of Peru's most powerful archaeologist, have actually either defended him directly or attacked his accusers.

It's time for that to stop and for things to change course. I think it is entirely reasonable to insist that the archaeology community (and the broader scientific community) come to the defense of those who are under attack by abusers, to raise their voices (and not just anonymously on this blog, sorry to say), and make their intentions clear. In my view, Castillo must be completely isolated from the archaeology community, all collaborations with him must cease, and the PUCP should be directly called out for its enabling of him by refusing to take any action.

Perhaps the comments section of this blog can serve as a forum for discussion of what can be done, as well as updates on what is being done (as has been the case on some of these blog posts, to good effect.)

"Enough with PUCP intimidation"

Update March 18: The hearing in Castillo's case against Marcela Poirier will be held online on the morning of April 8. I am one of the witnesses for Marcela; Castillo has also mustered a long list of apparent "character" witnesses. Please watch here for regular updates, and please do what you can--either as individuals or organizations--to come to Marcela's support.

Update April 2: Please see comments below for the text of an urgent plea I sent to the leadership of the Society for American Archaeology and which has gone unanswered for more than two weeks.

Update April 4: The Institute for Andean Studies, the professional organization most closely associated with Castillo's area of study, issues a strong statement of support. This is the way the step up.

Post a Comment


Anonymous said…
You’d think that now after the Comaroff widely-publicized backlash, LJC’s sycophants would be less eager to jump to his aid as before. Enabling faculty are starting to realize that there are severe personal consequences for not doing their homework.
Anonymous said…
You’d think so, but except for the retired ones (2) all the rest have been, and continue to be quite comfortable with the whole issue. Two years and not a single word of condemnation.
Anonymous said…
If senior faculty cannot muster up the courage to deal with someone like Castillo, and if those same faculty are advising their students to be just as cowardly, how can anyone expect that he would not go from one abuse to another as he did?

This was from a comment referring Kurin, but it certainly applies to Castillo and his enablers too.
Anonymous said…
Word around the archaeological community is that his enablers are still vigorously advocating for him. He's the gatekeeper for the tight inside group of Andeanists that control that field but also sit on hiring, tenure promotion, granting committees etc. in general around the country. We already know who all these people are as they are continually discussed in this blog with regard to connected cases with Urton, Kurin, Boytner etc. One call from anyone in this network can insure that a qualified candidate isn't hired for example no matter what field they are in. That's why colleagues in general are silent. Its time for a new generation of Peruvian archaeologists to start outing this cabal even if it means closing Peru to US investigators conducting fieldwork there for a period of time. You begin by using the authority of the committees over which you do have control. It has worked in the past in other countries globally. It was extraordinarily successful in Mexico in the early 1980's for example. This is the only way to get rid of US network stooges like Castillo.

On networks in anthropology.
Anonymous said…
I think Castillo’s enablers have to come to light in order for public pressure to do its work.
We know his main enablers at Harvard: Urton and Quilter.
We still need to know who else in the US is enabling him.

But let’s start with the Peruvian enablers (they are so many)
These are the PERUVIAN ENABLERS who presented letters of support for Castillo during the PUCP 2020 process:
Elsa Tomasto (PUCP faculty)
Julio Saldana (PUCP – in charge of the SJM lab) (Castillo’s former student)
Ema Perea (Museo Nacional de Arqueologia Antropologia e Historia) (Castillo’s former student)
Fernando Zvietcovich
Maria Herrera Lopez
Andre Servan Rochabrunt
Anonymous said…
Most people seem to be under the impression that Jeffrey Quilter is operating as the front man since so many of the other colleagues have been directly connected with all of the scandals discussed on this blog. What's really at stake is the future of US archaeology in Peru.
Michael Balter said…
Re the last two comments: It seems clear that many are afraid to go against Castillo because they fear he can block their work in Peru. That’s true of Peruvians, Americans, and anyone else who works there or wants to. So the ticket of entry to work on Peruvian archaeological sites is looking the other way while Castillo pursues an anthropologist who reported him to the NAS, which then investigated and found the allegations to be credible and substantiated. While she is possibly in jail, that critical archaeology work will go on and others will pursue their careers. Are archaeologists moral and principled researchers, or cowards who value their careers over justice, fairness, and the right of young women to have careers in the field? That is what is at issue here and what will be tested in the coming weeks. Fortunately, some are doing the right thing, but right now, most are not. Sad.
Michael Balter said…
And just a hint, some may find themselves on the wrong side of this faster than they think. There is a lot going on and there are some very determined colleagues who know how to stick up for someone who is in trouble.
Anonymous said…
whatever is going on here, the notion that Castillo can block people's work in Peru is simply not the case. Even the most cursory investigation will reveal many people with no or poor relationships with Castillo, both Peruvian and foreign, working with permits granted by the Ministry of Culture. Perhaps there is more to the story than that
Anonymous said…
Well, actually Castillo blocked Steve Bourget from continuing his work on Moche on the north coast of Peru. Bourget did not get along with Castillo. Bourget never conducted fieldwork in Peru again. So there’s that.
But beyond this case, the thing is that Castillo was Vice Minister of Culture of Peru during 2013-2018 and Minister of Culture in 2019. The problem is not that he blocked everyone he didn’t like, but that he had the power to do so, and in some cases he actually did.
Further, he gave many key positions to his people, many of whom still work in the Ministerio, because of him. And let’s remind we are not just talking about a powerful professor here, we are talking about someone who got to the highest power position in a country.
I wonder how many personal favors Castillo asked for him and his people, as a government official, which is totally corrupt.
Anonymous said…
Not sure it matters, but Castillo's time as Vice Minister ended in 2015, not 2018 and he was Minister for only 3 months in 2019. Didnt see many holdovers when doing permit applications this year but perhaps there are still some. And I understand that Bourget was banned for repeated permit violations but maybe someone has more info-mine is third hand
Anonymous said…
Bourget was essentially Chris Donnan's protege so I wouldn't be surprised to learn there are politics behind the Bourget situation. My understanding from hearsay around UCLA and earlier posts on this blog was that Stanish engineered getting Castillo into UCLA. However Donnan declined to work with him and given his temper with regard to those who Castillo feels have slighted him I wouldn't be surprised if he took it out on Bourget. But I don't know the background on Bourget's projects either.
Michael Balter said…
Where is Steve Bourget now? He does not appear to be at UT Austin anymore. If someone here knows him, perhaps they can call his attention to these comments and ask him to weigh in.
Anonymous said…
Last known whereabouts at Geneva. Major publication in 2016. Maybe he has retired?
Anonymous said…
Bourget retired from some museum in Geneva a few years ago...seems to have dropped off the map. Castillo started at UCLA and finished course work before Stanish got there-I assume he was Donnan's student because who else could he have been working with but that was a long time ago-around 1990 if memory serves.
Anonymous said…
To “Anonymous said…March 22, 2022 at 12:56 PM”
“Castillo started at UCLA and finished course work before Stanish got there-I assume he was Donnan's student because who else could he have been working with but that was a long time ago-around 1990 if memory serves.”

See more details here

(search “Stanish”)
Anonymous said…
Castillo received his Ph.D. in 2012. Stanish and Nair were the Andeanists on the committee.
Anonymous said…
Now that we’re in the middle of the SAA’s meetings and that Sandweiss is going to be the new President, I wonder which will be his position as an Andean archaeologist regarding Castillo. I mean he should be expelled from the SAA.
Michael Balter said…
I'm not sure Castillo is still a member of SAA. Perhaps someone should check the member directory.

So here is what's happening. I wrote a plea to the board and staff asking that SAA support Marcela Poirier. I heard nothing for more than a week. I wrote again. Deb Nichols accidentally copied me on an email the whole group, saying that I was making "demands" on SAA. Below is what I actually wrote to them.

I have been using the meeting hashtag to try to bring this to the attention of the meeting attendees in Chicago. I hope the SAA will not turn out to be a morally bankrupt organization. I hope it has learned its lessons since the Yesner affair of 2019 (some people are still lying about what happened then.)

Please make sure everyone sees this. Sent March 18, still no response from anyone in SAA:

Dear colleagues,

This is an urgent appeal to members of the board of the SAA, and some past presidents. I was not able to find email addresses for a few current board members, so I would be grateful if someone could share this with them.

As you probably know, Peruvian archaeologist and former culture minister Luis Jaime Castillo Butters was ejected from the National Academy of Sciences last October, after an investigation upheld allegations of sexual harassment against him. This was the second institution to find the charges credible; earlier the sexual harassment commission of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, Castillo's home institution, came to similar conclusions, although for "technical reasons" the university has not seen fit to discipline him.

One of the researchers who reported Castillo to the NAS was Marcela Poirier, a Peruvian anthropologist. Marcela's role is briefly outlined in this news story in Science about the Academy's action:

Castillo is now suing Marcela for defamation in the Peruvian courts, asking about $50K in damages and also that she be jailed for 30 months. Despite her evident courage, she is very scared about what might happen. The hearing of the case will be held the morning of April 8 using the Google online platform.

Marcela has three witnesses who will appear on April 8, including me; Castillo has 15, all of whom appear to be "character" witnesses. I am a witness because my reporting on Castillo's misconduct was instrumental, as all involved agree, in the two institutions deciding to launch investigations--as the Science story makes clear. (A number of colleagues who might have been witnesses for Marcela have declined to appear out of fear of Castillo's power over who gets to work in Peru. Thus the intimidation process is already well established.)

This lawsuit is a blatant attempt by a powerful archaeologist to intimidate Marcela and all other survivors into silence, past, present, and future. It is also direct retaliation against Marcela for her whistleblowing to the NAS. I believe that these actions, and Castillo's conduct, are in direct violation of the SAA's anti-harassment guidelines.

Thus I urge you to do anything you can to support Marcela, for example by issuing a statement condemning this retaliation, or in other ways encouraging the anthropology/archaeology communities to speak out both formally and informally. I hope that as colleagues of Marcela's and believers that women in anthropology should be able to pursue their careers without fear of harassment, you will lend your support. I don't need to tell you that if Castillo succeeds in this action, it will be a clear signal to survivors of abuse and their supporters that they are better off keeping silent.

If you have any questions or want to see my reporting on Castillo in detail, please let me know.

With thanks and best regards,

Michael Balter

Michael Balter said…
PS--As you can see from what I wrote the SAA leadership, I made no "demands" on them. The demands Deb and the others are sensing are those coming from their own bad consciences. Thus does the world turn. Pathetic that this is what "academia" has become.
Anonymous said…
Btw, Hundreds of Peruvians, including important Feminist Organizations and Institutions have signed a public statement in support of Marcela.
Michael Balter said…
Yes, the Peruvians are being very brave in going up against one of the most powerful academics in the country, and a former culture minister. It would be good to see that kind of bravery among American academics. Pardon my bitterness. The American Anthropological Association has also refused to do anything to support Marcela. I will be publishing that exchange, with an analysis, later on.
Anonymous said…
I would have thought better of Deborah Nichols.
Anonymous said…
Some of the comments here have strayed rather far from the original and sustained accusations. They have moved to the ad hominem and are not always fully informed.

1. Deb now should receive our concern, our support, our care, and if you are so inclined, our love and prayers. I hope those who disparage her here are simply unaware rather than hateful.
2. Castillo Butters, Poirier, and Balter are not members of the SAAs. If you want to change something, join.
3. The SAA charter focuses on archaeology and its practice. Where the original charges applied to that focus, the SAAs took and will take action. But this law suit has moved beyond that realm into a dispute between private individuals who are not members about issues that derive from, but are now well beyond, archeological practice.
4. There is real and valid concern that the effect of a statement, if one were issued, would be the opposite of that desired. Such an attempt to help Dra. Poitier might hurt her in unintended ways.
5. Dan Sandweiss is not President of the SAAs. He is President Elect and as such is prohibited to speak for the society. It is unreasonable to think he would.

To sum up, I hope comments will cease hurtful ad hominem attacks against people who do not deserve them. Effective action is not always loud and loud words are not always effective.
Michael Balter said…
In response to the previous comment, which I do not agree with--smacks of a wordy and somewhat bureaucratic attempt to avoid taking any responsibility for what happens to a colleague threatened with jail--the Institute of Andean Archaeology has taken a very different approach:

I think this is the way that institutions and organizations should respond to situations where moral issues are involved, in keeping with the responsibilities of archaeologists and anthropologists to be engaged with what goes on their fields, positive and negative.

We make rules which restrict our agency, and then we pretend to be bound by them. This is morally bankrupt when questions of justice are involved.
Michael Balter said…
Sorry, the Institute of Andean Studies.
Michael Balter said…
While I am here: I would not have asked the SAA to issue a statement concerning the Marcela Poirier case if I did not have good reason to believe that such an action would be helpful to Marcela and welcome by her. Please stop the dishonesty and gaslighting, it's disgusting and not worthy of serious academics.
Anonymous said…
Michael, not everyone who disagrees with your tactics is "disgusting," "dishonest," or "gaslighting." It is wrong for any journalist to engage in such ad hominem attacks. I support Dra. Poirier and absolutely reject what Castillo Butters has done and is now doing. The SAAs and AAAs already have strong statements about harassment and assault, and others are following suit. More importantly, they take action, including in the root causes underlying this case. But they do not have and in my opinion never should have ethical statements concerning legal cases between private non-members that do not concern anthropology. This is a defamation case, and I hope it fails. But it is no longer about archaeology. If this were a felony case about assault on a project or a civil case about harassment, It would be appropriate for both organizations to get involved, and I hope to hell they would.

But please, if you wish to be taken seriously, you need to stop attacking people who share your moral indignation but not your tactics. You are not only preaching to the choir, you are attacking it.
Michael Balter said…
I'm going to leave it mostly to others to discuss this, but a criticism of inaction by SAA is not "ad hominen," by definition, because it goes directly to the disagreement about tactics, which is legitimate, relevant, and to the point. If the tactics follow from moral cowardice, which I think they do, that is not my doing nor my responsibility. In fact in this case the SAA has so far decided not to adopt any "tactics" at all, but to use controversies about me as an excuse for doing nothing. That has been going on for years now.
Michael Balter said…
PS--I am far, far from the only one who has had issues with the SAA's historical failure to do the right thing in harassment/abuse cases, as I think most reading this will know.
Anonymous said…
So, the SAA’s had Castillo in their ETHICS TASK FORCE as an international liaison for Latin America in 2018? Not just Peru, but Latin America.
Sure, public accusations came out in 2020, but the accusations against him regarding serial sexual harassment happened in 2014 and before. While this was happening, he was part of SAA’s ethics task force.

Castillo is even part of the 2020 ethics report! (start at page 27)
Anonymous said…

On April 4, 2022 at 12:32 PM, Anonymous said:
“1. Deb now should receive our concern, our support, our care, and if you are so inclined, our love and prayers”

But by your very own logic, we should not. By your very own logic, this is really a medical issue between a private individual and her endometrial cancer. This too, has nothing to do with archaeology and its practice. By your very own logic, it was inappropriate for the SAA leadership to even bring it up in the opening session, and plead the members to solemnly reflect on Deb’s situation.

Anonymous also said:
“2. Castillo Butters, Poirier, and Balter are not members of the SAAs. If you want to change something, join.”

And this is exactly why you are not gaining support in our ranks, Balter. The SAA is full of entitled people like Anonymous who believe that supporting a colleague in need should be restricted to those who pay a membership fee (assuming they can afford to), even if they further acknowledge that a terrible wrong is unfolding in front of our eyes. People who argue against “ad hominem” attacks, and then follow to shoot the messenger of the survivors.
Michael Balter said…
Re the last comment:

I agree with the commenter’s point that the failure so far by the SAA to support Marcela is hypocritical. But this is a failure of the leadership, which as far as I know has not presented the possibility of supporting her to the membership nor even made the membership aware of this case. The leadership has not responded at all to my pleas, other than Deb’s statement to them that I am making “demands” (she is dealing with the situation despite her unfortunate illness, with which I sympathize of course.)

Also, it is not “Balter” who is not gaining support, it is Marcela. Going back to the Yesner affair and earlier, a lot of falsehoods have been spread about me and my reporting, which unfortunately a lot of gullible, uninformed individuals have tended to believe. It’s been very convenient to use criticisms of my “tactics” as an excuse to ignore the plight of the many survivors whose stories I have helped to tell. Now we are seeing this with the serious attacks on Marcela Poirier—oh, this is Balter’s thing, so we are justified in doing nothing. It’s not me who is threatened with 30 months in jail, it is Marcela.

The court hearing is this Friday. The Institute of Andean Studies, the organization that brings together researchers in Castillo’s own field, has spoken clearly. So should the SAA. There is still time.
Anonymous said…
Peruvian press coverage of the case:
Anonymous said…

According to Peruvian sources, irregularities at the court hearings have raised concerns:

Does anybody know more about this matter?
Anonymous said…

The Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDDHH), a coalition of human rights organizations in Peru, has indeed raised their concerns regarding in particular the judge's decision for the hearings to remain private :

A few days ago, on April 28th, the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders, a joint program by the International Federation for Human Rights and the OMCT (SOS-Torture Network) published an urgent appeal for actions on behalf of Marcela Poirier

Anonymous said…
Peruvian media coverage of the case.
BTW this is national scandal in Peru:

Anonymous said…
Science coverage of the case: