The Art of Memory

An Ethnographer's Journey

By Stefano Varese

240 pp., 6 x 9, 34 images, notes

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6168-1
    Published: December 2020
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-6169-8
    Published: December 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6201-3
    Published: December 2020

Buy this Book

This title is not eligible for UNC Press promotional pricing.

To purchase online via an independent bookstore, visit

Distributed for Editorial A Contracorriente

Combining personal and family recollections with incisive accounts of academic, political, and institutional experiences, The Art of Memory offers a remarkable account of the life of one of the foremost Latin American ethnographers and a leading expert in Indigenous cultures, peoples, and cosmologies. Varese narrates the story of his journey from Italy to Peru, his formative years as an Anthropologist and the critical work he did with Amazonian communities in the 1970s, his transformation into an activist scholar, his move to Mexico and his long-standing commitment with the peoples of Oaxaca, and his life as an academic in the United States. The reader will appreciate the honesty and transparency with which Varese brings out all these experiences. This extraordinary book combines the personal, the political, and the transnational to produce a vivid account of a unique and fulfilling journey.

About the Authors

Stefano Varese is Professor Emeritus and Founding Director and continuing member of the Indigenous Research Center of the Americas at the University of California Davis. He is the author of the classic study, La sal de los cerros (1968), as well as Forest Indians in the Present Political Situation of Peru (1972), Witness to Sovereignty: Essays on the Indian Movement in Latin America (2007), and editor of Contemporary Voices of Anima Mundi: A Reappraisal (2020), among other publications. He has received awards from the Latin American Studies Association and Casa de las Américas.
For more information about Stefano Varese, visit the Author Page.

Margaret Randall is a poet, feminist, photographer, oral historian, and social activist. She has lived in Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, and other Latin American countries. She is the author of more than 90 books of poetry, prose, oral testimony, and memoir, including, recently, Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression (2015), Che on My Mind (2014), and the poetry collections The Rhizome as a Field of Broken Bones (2013) and About Little Charlie Lindbergh (2014).
For more information about Margaret Randall, visit the Author Page.


"Stefano Varese has written an intellectually important memoir that broadens our understanding of the social movements, cosmologies, and struggles for autonomy and rights of indigenous peoples in the Americas. At the same time, he also writes about his own life and development with honesty and sensitivity. This exceptional memoir shows how to write about oneself and others with beauty and sincerity."--Lynn Stephen, University of Oregon (from the prologue)

"With humility, style, and humor, Stefano Varese shares his amazing life story. Born in Italy, raised in Peru, and trained as an anthropologist in the Amazon, Stefano has sought to understand and fight for Indigenous peoples across the Americas. His story sheds light on the 1960s, new forms of Anthropology, and life as an immigrant in Mexico and the United States. With searing and vivid prose, he captures the joys and challenges of a transnational life, one committed to social justice and the tireless defense of human rights."--Charles F. Walker, University of California, Davis