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Jeffrey LesserSamuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History

Jeffrey Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professormodern Latin American history, focusing on public health, ethnicity, immigration, and race, especially in Brazil. 

My interests surround the constructions of identities, especially how ethnic groups like Asian-BraziliansArab-Brazilians, and Jewish-Brazilians understand their own and national spaces. My research is important to my teaching, and many of my classes include oral and digital history projects. See, for example, and  

While at Emory University I have had numerous administrative roles including as Director of the Halle Institute for Global Research, Chair of the History Department, Director of the Tam Institute for Jewish Studies, and Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.

My newest book, Living and Dying in São Paulo, will be published by Duke University Press and examines the competing visions of wellbeing among immigrants and representatives of the Health State including policymakers and health care professionals. Living and Dying places the past and the present into conversation using archival materials, observation, oral histories, and geographical/cartographic data. My historical techniques include the analysis of discourse and social history approaches for data including materials produced by public health professionals at the local, municipal, and state levels, and documents generated by the public including by local community, labor, and religious institutions. As part of the project, I was embedded within a primary care team of the Brazilian National Health Service (SUS). Two publications from this project can be found here and here.

I am also the author of Immigration, Ethnicity and National Identity in Brazil (Cambridge University Press, 2013; Editora UNESP, 2015), A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese-Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy (Duke University Press, 2007; Editora Paz e Terra, 2008), awarded the 2010 Roberto Reis Prize (Honorable Mention), Brazilian Studies Association; Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil (Duke University Press, 1999; Editora UNESP, 2001), awarded the Best Book Prize, Latin American Studies Association-Brazil in Comparative Perspective Section; and Welcoming the Undesirables: Brazil and the Jewish Question (University of California Press, 1994; Imago Editora, 2005; Tel Aviv University Publishing Projects, 1997), awarded the Best Book Prize, New England Council on Latin American Studies. 

I am the series editor (with Matthew Gutmann) of The Global Square: Into the 21st Century (University of California Press) and co-editor (with Raanan Rein) of Rethinking Jewish-Latin Americans (University of New Mexico Press, 2008). I am also the editor of Searching for Home Abroad: Japanese-Brazilians and Transnationalism (Duke University Press, 2003); and Arab and Jewish Immigrants in Latin America: Images and Realities (Frank Cass, 1998).


  • BA, Brown University, 1982.
  • MA, Brown University, 1984.
  • PhD, New York University, 1989.


  • Latin American History
  • Ethnicity, Race, and National Identity
  • Immigration
  • Jewish Studies

Current Graduate Students

Doctoral Graduates