press release
Published: 01 February 2017

University of Surrey academic awarded prestigious research grant

By Natasha Meredith

Dr Lucy Bell from the University of Surrey has been awarded £249,910 from the prestigious Arts and Humanities Research Council to investigate the Latin American phenomenon of ‘editoriales cartoneras.’

Cardboard book covers from Brazil

Working in collaboration with anthropologist Dr Alex Flynn from the University of Durham, who has been conducting fieldwork in Brazil for the last decade, Dr Bell will be examining the rise of ‘editoriales cartoneras’ (translated as “waste-picking publishers” or “cardboard publishers”) and how they have forged new local and global literary communities. 

‘Editoriales cartoneras’ are small independent publishing projects who make books out of recycled cardboard and sell them at reduced prices, helping to increase access to literature in countries, where books tend to be unaffordable. The development of such entrepreneurial practices can be traced back to the 2001 economic crisis in Buenos Aires, when thousands of cartoneros (waste-pickers) took to the streets to collect and sell scrap materials.

Funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council will facilitate a series of book-making workshops for school groups in São Paulo helping to widen this practice, as well as the creation of cartonera collections with project partners at a number of prestigious libraries including the British Library, Senate House Library in London and Cambridge University Library.

Dr Lucy Bell, from the University of Surrey said: “I am thrilled to have been awarded this grant, and particularly excited to get the opportunity to work with brilliant anthropologist Dr Alex Flynn, a number of librarians from top UK libraries, and of course the cartonera publishers themselves, who will be at the heart of this project.”

Professor Bran Nicol, Head of the School of English and Languages (SEL) at the University of Surrey, said: “I’m delighted for Lucy. This is a notable achievement in one of the AHRC’s most high-profile schemes, and will bring significant investment to SEL.

“It confirms our School’s international outlook and shows that work in the Humanities can make a difference in real-world matters. It is just reward for Lucy and her co-Investigator Alex’s hard work on the bid.”

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