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Spaces for reading, a cartography of used books in urban Latin America

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This article explores the spatial dimensions of used books in Latin American cities. Used books are sold in shops and on the street, recirculated in public book exchanges, and collected in small neighbourhood libraries. Public parks, art installations and even novels feature used books prominently. The routes and itineraries of used books map an alternative consumer culture that challenges or defies the neo-liberal economy that has dominated the region for several decades. Whether through grass-roots solidarity initiatives or broad-based municipal programming, used books occupy Latin American cities and reveal a persistent culture of the book in the region. The article offers examples of used book sales and circulation in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Lima and New York, and contributes to the current turn in the history of the book towards material culture that examines the process, use and value of the book in its social, cultural, economic and political context.
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Keywords: Buenos Aires; Latin American urban space; Mexico City; books and reading; community libraries; consumer culture

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Rutgers University

Publication date: 01 September 2014

More about this publication?
  • Cities have been increasingly at the forefront of debate in both humanities and social-science disciplines, but there has been relatively little dialogue across these disciplinary boundaries. Journals in social-science fields that use urban-studies methods to look at life in cities rarely explore the cultural aspects of urban life in any depth or delve into close readings of the representation of cities in individual cultural products. As a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship from any and all linguistic, cultural and geographical traditions, the Journal of Urban Cultural Studies prioritizes the urban phenomenon in order to better understand the culture(s) of cities.
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