Emilio Kourí

Professor of History, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College; Department Chair
PhD 1996 Harvard University

William Rainey Harper Memorial Library,
East Tower, room 681 – Office
(773) 834-4769 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax

Mailing Address

The University of Chicago
Department of History
1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

Field Specialties

Modern Mexico; social and economic history of Latin America; agrarian studies; the history of ideas; Cuba and the Spanish Caribbean; US Latino history


Emilio Kourí's main scholarly interest is in the social and economic history of rural Mexico since Independence. He is the author of A Pueblo Divided: Business, Property, and Community in Papantla, Mexico. It tells the story of the strife-ridden transformation of rural social relations in the Totonac region of Papantla during the course of the nineteenth century, paying particular attention to how the progressive development of a campesino-based international vanilla economy changed and ultimately undermined local forms of communal landholding. A Pueblo Divided received the 2005 Bolton-Johnson Prize from the Conference on Latin American History (CLAH) and the 2005 Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Prize (Honorable Mention) from the American Society for Ethnohistory.

His current research project is an interdisciplinary study of the idea of the "Indian pueblo" in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Mexican thought, law, and political discourse. Using modern Mexico as a case study, this book examines the origins and evolution of two deeply entrenched ideas about the character of indigenous communal organization: harmony and cohesion as defining features of Indian village social relations, and communal land tenure as the natural expression of this inherent cultural solidarity. Where did these unsubstantiated ideas about Indian culture and sociability come from? How and why did they become so influential? Part one, an intellectual history, traces the philosophical assumptions underpinning the analysis of "native communities" in early sociology and anthropology. Part two, an archival-based sociopolitical history, describes how these conceptions shaped twentieth-century Mexican social thought, agrarian reform, and Indian policy. He is also writing a book on the making of the ejido, Mexico's sui generis postrevolutionary land reform institution.

He teaches seminars on land reforms, rural social movements, and the history of agrarian thought, as well as courses on Latin American and Latino history, and is director of the Katz Center for Mexican Studies.


"La invención del ejido." Revista NEXOS (January 2015).

"Claroscuros de la reforma agraria mexicana." Revista NEXOS (December 2010).

Revolución y exilio en la historia de México: Homenaje a Friedrich Katz. Coedited with Javier Garciadiego. Mexico: Ediciones Era, coedition with the Colegio de México and the Katz Center for Mexican Studies, 2010.

Editor. En busca de Molina Enríquez: cien años de Los Grandes Problemas Nacionales. Mexico: coedition with the Colegio de México and the Katz Center for Mexican Studies, 2009.

"Manuel Gamio y el Indigenismo de la Revolución Mexicana." In Historia de los intelectuales en América Latina, vol 2, edited by Carlos Altamirano. Buenos Aires: Katz Editores, 2010

"John Womack: sobre historia e historiadores." Revista Temas (2008). Interview.

"Aspectos económicos de la desamortización de las tierras de los pueblos." In España y México, ¿Historias económicas paralelas?, edited by Rafael Dobado, Aurora Gómez Galvarriato, and Graciela Márquez. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2007.

A Pueblo Divided: Business, Property, and Community in Papantla, Mexico. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004.

"Interpreting the Expropriation of Indian Pueblo Lands in Porfirian Mexico: The Unexamined Legacies of Andrés Molina Enríquez." The Hispanic American Historical Review 82, no. 1 (February 2002).

"El comercio de exportación en Tuxpan, 1870–1900." In El siglo XIX en las Huastecas, México, edited by Antonio Escobar Ohmstede and Luz Carregha Lamadrid. Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Esudios Superiores en Antropología Social, 2002.

"Economía y comunidad en Papantla: reflexiones sobre 'la cuestión de la tierra' en el siglo XIX." In Estructuras y formas agrarias en México: del pasado al presente, edited by Antonio Escobar Ohmstede and Teresa Rojas Rabiela, 197–214. Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Esudios Superiores en Antropología Social, 2001.

"La vainilla de Papantla: Agricultura, comercio y sociedad rural en el siglo XIX." Signos Históricos 3 (2000).

"Lo agrario y lo agrícola: reflexiones sobre el estudio de la historia rural posrevolucionaria." Boletín del Archivo General Agrario 3 (July 1998).

Recent Course Offerings

  • Tropical Commodities in Latin America
  • Latin American History Seminar
  • Zapatista Social Movements, Old and New
  • Agrarian Reform in Twentieth-Century Mexico
  • The History of Mexico, 1876 to the Present
  • Pre-Columbian and Early Colonial Latin America
  • US Latinos: Origins and Histories
  • Latin American Civilizations