Jeffrey Lesser


Halle Institute for Global Research and Learning

Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History

Department of History

Office: Bowden 331

Phone: 404-727-4459



Jeffrey Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor and Director of the Halle Institute for Global Research and Learning; modern Latin American history, focusing on ethnicity, immigration and race, especially in Brazil. 

My interests surround the construction of national identity. My past work has focused on how ethnic groups understand their own and national space. I have studied a range of people including Asian-BraziliansArab-Brazilians, and Jewish-Brazilians.  My research is important to my teaching, and many of my classes include oral and digital history projects. See, for example, and

My most recent book, Immigration, Ethnicity and National Identity in Brazil (Cambridge University Press, 2013; Editora UNESP, 2015) examines the immigration to Brazil of millions of Europeans, Asians, and Middle Easterners beginning in the nineteenth century. I am interested in how these newcomers and their descendants adapted to their new country and how national identity changed as they became Brazilians along with their children and grandchildren. I argue that immigration cannot be divorced from broader patterns of Brazilian race relations, as most immigrants settled in the decades surrounding the final abolition of slavery in 1888 and their experiences were deeply conditioned by ideas of race and ethnicity formed long before their arrival.

I am also the author of 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

Recently-Appointed Doctoral Graduates