Culture and Agency in Latin America Series, Harvard University Press

Series Editor, José Luis Falconi


The Culture and Agency in Latin America Series will expand the scholarship on innovative contemporary cultural production in this region. Through an investigation of the work of leading artists such as Dario Escobar, in addition to other cultural agents such as the former mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus, the series examines how humor, creativity, and critical tactics have been used to negotiate social, political, and economic systems. This series will include insightful contributions from an international selection of leading scholars, critics and curators. As a whole, the series will support the notion of culture as an important expression of social agency and creativity as a driving force for social change.


LSE Review

"The Work of Art in the World"

Doris Sommer

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Celebrating art and interpretation that take on social challenges, Doris Sommer looks to steer the humanities back to engagement with the world. Among the cases that she covers are top-down initiatives of political leaders, such as those launched by Antanas Mockus, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, and also bottom-up movements like the Theatre of the Oppressed created by the Brazilian director, writer, and educator Augusto Boal. This inspiring book is filled with models, sources, and ideas that can be adapted and adopted to inform teaching and research about activist art and creativity, finds Anna Upchurch.





Books from this series




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Falconi, José Luis, ed. in Chief "Cultural Agents Reloaded: The Legacy of Antanas Mockus "The Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, 2017. Print.

For more than a decade the Mexico City–based artist, architect, and cultural agent Pedro Reyes has been turning existing social problems into opportunities for effecting tangible change through collective imagination. By breaking open failed models and retooling them with space to project alternatives, Reyes’s art enables productive diversions of otherwise destructive forces. Ad Usum: To Be Used is the second volume in the series Focus on Latin American Art and Agency, which is dedicated to contemporary cultural agents, a term that is perhaps best understood through the words of Reyes himself: “changing our individual habits has no degree of effectiveness” as “progress is only significant if you start to multiply by 10, by 100, by 1,000.” Rather than merely illustrate his work, this collection of images, interviews, and critical essays is intended as an apparatus for multiplying the possibilities when art becomes a resource for the common good.

This full-color illustrated survey of Reyes’s projects includes critical essays by José Luis Falconi, Robin Greeley, Johan Hartle, Adam Kleinman, and Doris Sommer, as well as interviews between the artist and such seminal thinkers as Lauren Berlant, Michael Hardt, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Antanas Mockus.





Tognato, Carlo, ed. Falconi, José Luis, ed. in Chief "Cultural Agents Reloaded: The Legacy of Antanas Mockus "The Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, 2017. Print.


Cultural Agents Reloaded: The Legacy of Antanas Mockus systematically reflects on the practices and legacy of one exceptional cultural agent, Antanas Mockus, twice Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia. His accomplishments bear witness to the potential of creative, symbolic practices as a trigger for social change. His failures, in turn, demonstrate what happens when cultural agency and epistemic legitimacy take divergent paths. Mockus’s example motivates us to further revise and sharpen our understanding of what cultural agency is in the present day by bringing into focus some of the most formidable challenges that public humanities face when they travel South and struggle to become genuinely global.





Falconi, José Luis, ed. A Single Plurality: The Works of Darío Escobar. Vol. 1. Cambridge, Mass: The Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, 2014. Print.


One of the most significant Central American artists to be in the contemporary international scene in recent years, Guatemalan sculptor Dario Escobar has captivated audiences with his provocative work, as intense in its format and conceptual inquiry as it is irreverent in its novelty and humor.


Escobar first gained recognition for his clever appropriation of everyday objects gilded in the manner of the Guatemalan baroque. He has since distinguished himself as an artist not only through this shrewd conflation of high- and low-brow culture, but, most critically, through his relentless artistic investigation of what it means, as a Guatemalan, to be “contemporary.” Whether through a strategic accumulation of seemingly ordinary objects, or their delicate re-contextualization in the gallery space, Escobar continually challenges us to reconsider our relation to the myriad of mass-produced objects that encroach on our daily experience and to reflect on our own place in the social, political, and economic systems that sustain this existence.


In A Singular Plurality, essays by important international scholars, critics, and curators provide a critical account of how Escobar’s irresistibly whimsical incisiveness effectively dismantled the hardened opposition between the cosmopolitan and the local, thus setting the stage for our present global cartography.


Cuellar, Sebastian, and Carlo Tognato, eds. Cultural Agents Reloaded: The Legacy of Antanas Mockus. Cambridge, Mass: The Cultural Agents Initiative at Harvard University, Forthcoming. Print.


Sommer, Doris. Cultural Agency in the Americas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2006. Print.
---. The Work of Art in the World : Civic Agency and Public Humanities. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014. Print.


Alvarez Curbelo, Silvia. "Artes Públicos En Puerto Rico." TRANS> Web.
Jacoby, Roberto. "La Estrategia De La Alegría." Zona Erógena 2000. Print.
Pérez Mejía, Ángela. "The Sling of Goliath." TRANS> Web.
Sommer, Doris. "Art to the Rescue." Print.
---. "Humanists as Cultural Agents." Print.
---. "Art and Accountability." Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas 38, No.2 71 (2005): 261-76. Print.
---. "Dancehall Democracy: Social Space as Social Agency." ReVista: Harvard Review of Latin America  (2007): 17-19. Print.
Taylor, Diana. "Performing the Claim." TRANS> Web.