Search International Institute website.

"On the Origin of the 'Mexican Race'"

A talk by Claudio Lomnitz (Columbia University)

Thursday, May 12, 2011
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
279 Haines Hall

How did the idea of a national race come to be a credible and widely spread notion in Mexico?  This paper frames the question comparatively, by noting that the racialization of national identity, that is, the naturalization of national difference, is a common strategy, particularly when a state is too weak to impose collective identity by way of equality before the law.  The Mexican case, however, is peculiar with regard to the success of a racialized idea of national identity because of its border with the United States, a unique situation in the Americas.  The essay demonstrates with historical detail and primary sources that the border dynamic that emerged in the late 19th century is the key to understanding why Mexicans in the 20th century represented themselves as members of a unitary race.  The paper offers a close historical description and argument that tracks the consolidation of the "Mexican race" as a figure that had real and convincing experiential referents.

Claudio Lomnitz is one of the leading scholars of contemporary Mexico and is presently the Campbell Family Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. His publications include his first book, Evolución de una sociedad rural (Mexico City, 1982) a study of politics and cultural change in Tepoztlán, Mexico. Following that publication, Lomnitz developed an interest in conceptualizing the nation-state as a kind of cultural region, a theme that culminated in: Exits from the Labyrinth: Culture and Ideology in the Mexican National Space (Berkeley, 1992). He has also written Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism (Minneapolis, 2001); Modernidad Indiana: Nuevo ensayos sobre nación y mediación en México (Mexico City, 1999); editor, Vicios públicos, virtudes privadas ¬ la corrupción en Mexico (Mexico City, 2000), and Death and the Idea of Mexico (Cambridge, 2005), a political and cultural history of death in Mexico from the 16th to the 21st centuries.  He is currently finishing a book on anarchism, socialism and revolution in Mexico (c. 1910) that inspects the cultural and political history of transnationalism.

Cost : Free and open to the public.

Download file: LomnitzClaudio-ic-kvr.pdf

Sponsor(s): Latin American Institute, Center for Mexican Studies

Search International Institute website.