Consuming the City: Cultures of Consumption in Latin America

Rea Vogt's picture
Call for Papers
May 30, 2021
Subject Fields: 
Latin American and Caribbean History / Studies, Urban History / Studies, Social History / Studies

As part of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences series "(ir)-responsible Consumption", the Department of Iberian and Latin American History at the University of Bern invites interested scholars to discuss issues related to (ir)-responsible consumption.

The fires in the Amazon Rainforest in 2019 have drawn worldwide attention to the connection between meat consumption and environmental degradation. For example, a poster entitled "Less meat consumption. More rainforest" designed by Bread for all, Switzerland is currently displayed on numerous billboards in several Swiss cities. On these posters, a cheerful couple is displayed grilling various pieces of meat on a kettle grill. The shadow of the couple clouds the image, because instead of the outlines of the two people, it consists of those of burnt tree trunks – an ominous allusion to the deforestation of the rainforest in other parts of the world. Through the depiction, the leisure and dietary behaviour of Swiss consumers are criticized and associated with the destruction of the American rainforests.

Latin America, as numerous scientific studies maintain, has been considered an exporter of raw materials and agricultural products for European, North American and Asian markets. This workshop, by contrast, aims to focus on the role of consumers in Latin America. Given that Latin America is one of the most urbanized regions on earth and at the same time one with the highest social inequality in the world, their consumption opportunities remain an unstudied discipline.

The event aims to encourage discussion of mass consumption and urbanity in Latin American cities from a comparative and translocal perspective. Against the backdrop of resource-based economic growth, in recent decades new consumer groups have developed in many regions, or new opportunities for consumption have opened up for several groups (leisure consumption, travel, pleasure culture, food, mobility, etc.). The organizers are interested in contributions on changes in consumption norms in urban areas in connection with different lifestyles and milieus. We are interested in a broad social perspective (marginalized social groups, new middle classes, but also the consumption practices of old and new elites) as well as in studies that identify and discuss alternative concepts of consumption. More specifically, urban spaces, the location of consumption practices, and material cultures and possible connections to discussions about (ir)-responsible consumption in Latin America will be examined. This may widen perspectives on current debates on how spheres of production and consumption interact in capitalist societies, and what role individual actors play in this. The workshop is intended as an event bringing together scholars interested in the history of consumption, capitalism, inequalities and urban studies from different career stages.

Papers should address at least one of the following guiding questions, always with an interest in the historic development:

- What is considered an attractive lifestyle and how is it propagated, for example, through media influence?

- How do consumer norms manifest themselves in different milieus and to what extent are they related to the reproduction of social inequality as distinctive features?

- Which values, attitudes, ideas but also political campaigns influence urban consumption and how do political power struggles affect it?

- How are problems discussed that are caused by the progressive exploitation of the hinterland?

- Which alternative consumption concepts are discussed and what is the role of a critical civil society?

- How spheres of production and consumption interact in capitalist societies?


The conveners invite researchers at any stage of their career (historians and neighbouring disciplines) who are working on these topics to apply. A geographical focus will be on Latin American cities particularly in the second half of the twentieth century. Contributions may either focus on a city, conduct a comparative study or explore aspects of an entangled history. Contributions discussing theoretical concepts are also of interest.

The workshop will take place at the University of Bern, Switzerland from 11 to 12 November 2021. The meeting will be held in person if the overall situation allows. We anticipate being able to reimburse standard travel expenses and the cost of accommodation for the duration of the workshop. If travel or other restrictions are still in place due to the coronavirus situation, the conveners will consider postponing the workshop. Please send your proposal (300 words) and a short CV to Melina Teubner (, no later than 30 May 2021.



Contact Info: 

Organizer: Dr. Melina Teubner, Iberian and Latin American History, University of Bern. Student assistant: Rea Vogt, Iberian and Latin American History, University of Bern