Materialities of Contemporary Latin American Publishing

Cover for Rex Stout’s A novela assassina (Editora Mérito, 1953).
Paloma Celis Carbajal
Magalí Rabasa
Magalí Rabasa
Nora Benedict. Photo by Sarah Wooten
Élika Ortega

Event Info

Please join us on Wednesday, January 25th at 5.30 pm EST at Center for Book Arts for Materialities of Contemporary Latin American Publishing, a program organized by The Bibliographical Society of America. A reception will follow the presentation and discussion.

This panel examines how actors associated with publishing have reimagined books as material objects in contemporary Latin America. While often situated on the periphery of global publishing markets, the region is a center of innovation where a range of projects—independent, state-funded, radically anti-capitalist, or a mixture of these—have proposed alternative ways of making, reading, and circulating books. Our panel features three scholars who, through a series of case studies from Mexico, Argentina, and Bolivia, consider these projects and how they reflect in the materiality of books and digital platforms.


The Materiality of Print Books as a Site of Feminist Translation. Magalí Rabasa

What relations and networks become visible through close examination of the materiality of print books? How does attention to the marginal aspects of a book object generate different understandings of the actors engaged in the various kinds of labor necessary for its production? In this presentation, I explore these questions through the analysis of the materiality of a single book produced by a network of small alternative presses between Mexico and Argentina. Extending my earlier research on the production and circulation of organic books in autonomous publishing networks, here I turn my attention to the ways that feminist practices and concepts appear not just in the words on the pages of the book, but also in the book object itself. Specifically, I consider in what ways the materiality of the book can be understood as a site of multiple modes of translation– political, cultural, linguistic, economic, etc. – enacted as part of a broader feminist ethic and praxis of care.


Selling Crime by Subscription: W. M. Jackson and the Club de Novelas LaberintoNora Benedict

Walter Montgomery Jackson (1863–1923) is most known for his involvement in producing the tenth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica as well as developing its famed eleventh edition. Some might also associate him with founding the Grolier Society through which he published the well-known children’s encyclopedia, The Book of Knowledge. However, few might link his name to a Latin American publishing empire. In this paper I detail Jackson’s involvement in the book industry in Latin America by focusing on one specific initiative: his adaptation of Harry Scherman’s Book of the Month Club. More specifically, I examine the physical features of books from his Club de Novelas Laberinto as a way to show how he revolutionized business models in the Latin American book industry through the introduction of subscription publishing in countries including Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil.


Experimental and independent publishing in Mexico. Permanente obra negra as an example of a distributed book. Élika Ortega 

Vivian Abenshushan’s Permanente obra negra is a unique piece of experimental literature and publishing launched in 2019 simultaneously by the Mexican independent publisher Sexto Piso and Medialabmx. Permanente obra negra (PON) is a complex gathering of book objects: a trade edition book, a die-cut book, a card catalog, and a web application designed and developed by Dora Bartilotti and Leonardo Aranda. Characterized as an “ungovernable book,” in this presentation I examine how the volumes’ paratexts reveal the web of objects woven by Abenshushan as a whole and cohesive project, from its conceptualization and design through the various production processes. Upon that basis, I further explore the publishing conditions that made possible one of the most exciting books to come out in Mexico in the recent past. 



Paloma Celis Carbajal
Curator for Latin American, Iberian, and Latino Studies Collections
New York Public Library



Corinna Zeltsman
Assistant Professor of History
Princeton University

Alex Hidalgo
Associate Professor of History
Texas Christian University


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