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Public Pages

Public Pages
Reading Along the Latin American Streetscape

The first broad survey of contemporary print culture in Latin America, this study demonstrates how public reading programs invite civic participation and promote social integration as the region becomes increasingly democratic.

Series: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowment in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture

May 2018
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304 pages | 6 x 9 | 74 b&w photos |

Public reading programs are flourishing in many Latin American cities in the new millennium. They defy the conception of reading as solitary and private by literally taking literature to the streets to create new communities of readers. From institutional and official to informal and spontaneous, the reading programs all use public space, distribute creative writing to a mass public, foster collective rather than individual reading, and provide access to literature in unconventional arenas.

The first international study of contemporary print culture in the Americas, Public Pages reveals how recent cultural policy and collective literary reading intervene in public space to promote social integration in cities in Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Chile. Marcy Schwartz looks at broad institutional programs such as UNESCO World Book Capital campaigns and the distribution of free books on public transportation, as well as local initiatives that produce handmade books out of recycled materials (known as cartoneras) and display banned books at former military detention centers. She maps the connection between literary reading and the development of cultural citizenship in Latin America, with municipalities, cultural centers, and groups of ordinary citizens harnessing reading as an activity both social and literary. Along with other strategies for reclaiming democracy after decades of authoritarian regimes and political violence, as well as responding to neoliberal economic policies, these acts of reading collectively in public settings invite civic participation and affirm local belonging.

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: City Reading: Public Space and Cultural Citizenship in Latin America
  • 1. Campaigning for the Capital: Bogotá and Buenos Aires as UNESCO World Book Capitals
  • 2. Reading on Wheels: Stories of Convivencia in Bogotá and Santiago
  • 3. Cacerolazos y bibliotecas: Solidarity, Reading, and Public Space after the Argentine Economic Crisis (2001–2002)
  • 4. Recycled Reading and the Cartonera Collectives: Publishing from the Ground Up
  • 5. Books That Bite: Libraries of Banned Books in Argentina
  • Conclusion: Stories at the Intersection
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index

New Brunswick, New Jersey

Schwartz is the chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and affiliated with the Center for Latin American Studies at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. Her previous books include Writing Paris: Urban Topographies of Desire in Contemporary Latin American Fiction and Invenciones urbanas: ficción y ciudad latinoamericanas.


“Rich in details and examples, exhaustively researched and engagingly narrated, Public Pages is an example of cultural studies at its most rewarding….This is clearly the work of a mature scholar who has dedicated years of research to a project that is driven by both intellectual, professional and personal concerns. Schwartz’ book succeeds in making visible a transnational push toward the valuing of literature as a key to civic participation and social change. It reveals the big picture of literature in Latin America today in its most tangible—and necessary—form.”
Latin American Literary Review

“This study will be of great interest to scholars of contemporary reading, education, and cultural production in Latin America, as well as to anyone with a stake in the question of how local organizing and the printed book might continue to serve as a focal point for imagination and politics in an increasingly digital world.”
Bulletin of Spanish Studies

“[Public Pages] is surely [Schwartz's] magnum opus...Combining a celebratory tone with a cautious, critical edge, Schwartz’s book is a stellar contribution to research on print culture, urban studies and literary and cultural studies in Latin American and transnational contexts. As befits a book that champions public reading, Public Pages is clearly written and highly engaging, making it accessible for researchers and the general public alike.”
Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

“[Public Pages] makes a strong case for cultural production in general, and particularly literary reading, to be an essential element in the binding of the diverse communities that inhabit today’s urban centres.”
Bulletin of Latin American Research

“Schwartz offers us a book-length example of approaches to the public humanities and demonstrates ways to put them into practice, as well as to analyze what the outcomes of these interventions might be...Schwartz does not speculate about possible roles for the humanities, but documents a series of hands-on projects in which literature is key to creating community.”

“[Schwartz's] study models a patient form of reading that points to important avenues of inquiry within the study of contemporary Latin American literary culture...In both analytic detail and methodological rigor, Public Pages is an inspiring contribution to contemporary literary studies.”
Revista de Esudios Hispánicos

“The chapters [in Public Pages] on the cartoneras and the commemorative activities organised in the libraries of banned books in Argentina are inspiring. However, they are most of all convincing examples on how activities related to literature in the public space can contribute to community organising and the creation of political awareness about a specific topic like recycling or human rights.”
European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“This is a truly exceptional work that will definitely stand as one of the most innovative books in contemporary Latin American culture studies. Methodologically, it not only represents a truly exceptional example for scholars interested in print-culture studies but also offers an inspiring starting point for the collective rethinking of the future of Latin American studies from a material and mediological perspective.”
Javier García-Liendo, Washington University in St. Louis, author of El intelectual y la cultura de masas: Argumentos latinoamericanos en torno a Ángel Rama y José María

“I learned a lot from Schwartz’s arguments and descriptions, and my interest was piqued by the diverse projects she studies. The cases studied are expertly chosen, each of them illuminating a different side of the question of reading in public. The sites are diverse, but the book is refreshing in its treatment of each place as its own specific context, without collapsing into a vague, homogenized idea of the Latin American region.”
Craig Epplin, Portland State University, author of Late Book Culture in Argentina


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