The City at Its Limits: Taboo, Transgression, and Urban Renewal in Lima
In 1996, against the backdrop of Alberto Fujimori’s increasingly corrupt national politics, an older woman in Lima, Peru—part of a group of women street sweepers protesting the privatization of the city’s cleaning services—stripped to the waist in full view of the crowd that surrounded her. Lima had just launched a campaign to revitalize its historic districts, and this shockingly transgressive act was just one of a series of events that challenged the norms of order, cleanliness, and beauty that the renewal effort promoted. The City at Its Limits employs a novel and fluid interweaving of essays and field diary entries as Daniella Gandolfo analyzes the ramifications of this act within the city’s conflicted history and across its class divisions. She builds on the work of Georges Bataille to explore the relation between taboo and transgression, while Peruvian novelist and anthropologist José María Arguedas’s writings inspire her to reflect on her return to her native city in movingly intimate detail. With its multiple perspectives—personal, sociological, historical, and theoretical—The City at Its Limits is a pioneering work on the cutting edge of ethnography.
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This is such a powerful book about the spacial and imaginary dimensions of marginality. It digs deep into the bizarre and violent experience of urban living. It is gruesome and difficult but ultimately worth it.
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