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Taking Form, Making Worlds

Taking Form, Making Worlds
Cartonera Publishers in Latin America

The first comprehensive study of cartonera, a vibrant publishing phenomenon born in Latin America.

Series: William and Bettye Nowlin Endowment

April 2022
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360 pages | 6 x 9 | one 16-page color insert, 49 b&w photos |

A publishing phenomenon and artistic project, cartonera was born in the wake of Argentina’s 2001 economic crisis. Infused with a rebellious spirit, cartonera has exploded in popularity, with hundreds of publishers across Latin America and Europe making colorful, low-cost books out of cardboard salvaged from the street. Taking Form, Making Worlds is the first comprehensive study of cartonera. Drawing on interdisciplinary research conducted across Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, the authors show how this hands-on practice has fostered a politically engaged network of writers, artists, and readers. More than a social movement, cartonera uses texts, workshops, encounters, and exhibitions to foster community and engagement through open-ended forms that are at once creative and social. For various groups including waste-pickers, Indigenous communities, rural children, and imprisoned women, cartonera provides a platform for unique stories and sparks collaborations that bring the walls of the “lettered city” tumbling down. By showcasing such diverse authors and bookmakers, cartonera publishers have encouraged varied works while making a home for an aesthetics of resistance, for experimentation, and for those living on the fringes of capitalist societies in which poverty, eccentricity, and creativity itself, are suspect.

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Histories: Tracing Trajectories of Resistance
  • 2. Methods: Trans-Formal Research for Transformational Practice
  • 3. Texts: Cartonera Literature in Action
  • 4. Encounters: Existence as Resistance and Sites of Plurality
  • 5. Workshops: Cardboard and the Material Sociality of Practice
  • 6. Exhibitions: An Artistic Proposition to Reorder the Social
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • About the Authors
  • Index

Lucy Bell is a senior lecturer in Spanish and translation studies at the University of Surrey.

Alexander Ungprateeb Flynn is an assistant professor of anthropology and contemporary art at UCLA.

Patrick O’Hare is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the University of St. Andrews.