February 10, 2021

Claudio Lomnitz

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes CLAUDIO LOMNITZ—Campbell Family Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University and author of The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón—for a discussion of his latest book, Nuestra América: My Family in the Vertigo of Translation. He will be joined in conversation by JESÚS R. VELASCO, professor of Spanish in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Yale University.


In Nuestra América, eminent anthropologist and historian Claudio Lomnitz traces his grandparents’ exile from Eastern Europe to South America. At the same time, the book is a pretext to explain and analyze the worldview, culture, and spirit of countries such as Peru, Colombia, and Chile, from the perspective of educated Jewish emigrants imbued with the hope and determination typical of those who escaped Europe in the 1920s. 

Lomnitz’s grandparents, who were both trained to defy ghetto life with the pioneering spirit of the early Zionist movement, became intensely involved in the Peruvian leftist intellectual milieu and its practice of connecting Peru’s indigenous past to an emancipatory internationalism that included Jewish culture and thought. After being thrown into prison supposedly for their socialist leanings, Lomnitz’s grandparents were exiled to Colombia, where they were subject to its scandals, its class system, its political life. Through this lens, Lomnitz explores the almost negligible attention and esteem that South America holds in US public opinion. The story then continues to Chile during World War II, Israel in the 1950s, and finally to Claudio’s youth, living with his parents in Berkeley, California, and Mexico City.

About Author(s)

Claudio Lomnitz is an anthropologist, historian, and critic who works broadly on Latin American culture and politics. He is Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. Lomnitz’s books include Death and the Idea of Mexico and The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón, among many others. As a regular columnist in the Mexico City paper La Jornada and an award-winning dramaturgist, he is committed to bringing historical and anthropological understanding into public debate.

Jesús R. Velasco studies Medieval and Early Modern legal cultures across the Mediterranean Basin and Europe within and outside the legal professions, from the perspective of contemporary critical thought. He is the author of Dead Voice: Law, Philosophy, and Fiction in the Iberian Middle Ages and Order and Chivalry: Knighthood and Citizenship in Late Medieval Castile. His articles on legal culture, chivalry, Occitan poetry, Political Theory, and other subjects have appeared in journals like MLNLa CorónicaStudi Ispanici, and many others. Velasco has taught at the École Normale Supérieure (Fontenay), University of Salamanca (Spain), UC Berkeley, and Columbia University, and Yale University, where he is presently a professor of Spanish.