In this engrossing and ambitious new book, Claudio Lomnitz examines the emergence of death as a national totem in Mexico through a detailed analysis of the management, representation, and political control over the dead, dying, and the afterlife, from the Spanish Conquest to today. Embracing the idea that attitudes toward death are not harmonious but rather polyvalent and contradictory, Lomnitz offers a strikingly original genealogy of “death totemism” that departs both from classical French historiography of death (Philippe Ariès, Michel Vovelle, Jean Delumeau) and recent discussions of Mexican deathways as an “invented tradition.” As in his previous Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2001), here Lomnitz offers surprising new insights about the history of nationalism, state formation, and the public sphere in Mexico. Bold and erudite, this book engages an impressive array of sources that range from missionary reports, testaments, and...

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