Photo of Emilio Kouri
Emilio Kourí Director, Katz Center for Mexican Studies
Affiliated Faculty, Center for Latin American Studies
Faculty Affiliate, Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture
Office: William Rainey Harper Memorial Library, East Tower, room 681 Mailbox 57 Office hours: Spring Quarter 2024 Thursday, 2:30-4:30pm and by appointment Phone: (773) 834-4769 Email Interests:

Modern Mexico; social and economic history of Latin America; agrarian studies; indigenous societies; rural ecology; political economy; the social history of law; the history of ideas; Cuba and the Spanish Caribbean; US Latino/a history

Professor of History and the College

Harvard University, PhD '96


Emilio Kourí's main scholarly interest is in the history of rural Mexico since Independence, including society, economy, politics, culture, and the law. 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. He is also the editor of En busca de Molina Enríquez: cien años de Los Grandes Problemas Nacionales and co-editor of Revolución y exilio en la historia de México: Homenaje a Friedrich Katz.

He is at work on a three-volume history of communal landholding in Mexico. Volume One examines the evolving meaning and practice of communal land tenure in Mexican villages during the 18th and 19th centuries, focusing on changes brought about by agricultural commerce and commodification, population growth and mobility, socio-economic differentiation within and beyond villages, and the haphazard implementation of a multiplicity of liberal disentailment laws. Volume Two focuses on the Zapatista movement of the Mexican Revolution, offering a revisionist interpretation of its agrarian and political goals and practices and of its place in the land reform that would follow its demise. Volume Three explains the legal, political, and ideological origins of the collective land-grant community (ejido) created by the Mexican Revolution between 1915 and 1934. By 1992, when a constitutional amendment ended the redistribution program, more than two thirds of Mexico’s arable lands and forests were at least nominally in the hands of these land-grant communities—the most extensive state-managed land tenure transformation in the history of modern Latin America. Historians have long regarded the communal character given to ejido property as a return to forms of social organization rooted in Mexico’s indigenous past, and have considered it to be the fulfillment, at least in principle, of what villagers like Emiliano Zapata had long demanded and fought for. Against prevailing interpretations, Volume Three argues that the new ejido of the Revolution was not what country people (and especially the Zapatistas) had battled for. Rather, it was the piecemeal product of idealized notions of indigenous communal organization and historical practice hastily contrived by the "progressive" elites who won the Revolution and who were then compelled in fits and starts to make expedient agrarian reforms in order to build sorely needed popular political allegiances.

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


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

Recent Research / Recent Publications

  • "On the Mexican Ejido." Humanity 11.2. 

  • Chico Franco y Nicolás Zapata.” Revista NEXOS (August 2019).

  • El alma perdida del Plan de Ayala.” Revista NEXOS (July 2019).

  • "La caja de hojalata." Revista NEXOS (June 2019).

  • "El ejido de Anenecuilco." Revista NEXOS (May 2019).

  • "La historia al revés." Revista NEXOS (Apr. 2019).

  • "Sobre la propiedad comunal de los pueblos: De la Reforma a la Revolución." Historia Mexicana (264) 66, no. 4 (Apr.–June 2017): 1,923–60.

  • "La promesa agraria del artículo 27.” Revista NEXOS (Feb. 2017).

  • "La invención del ejido." Revista NEXOS (Jan. 2015).

  • "Claroscuros de la reforma agraria mexicana." Revista NEXOS (Dec. 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 (Feb. 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).