Daniela Samur

Graduate Student


I am a historian of modern Latin America and am broadly interested in questions of culture and power, the intersections between poetry and politics, and in ways of connecting history and fiction. More specifically, in my research I focus on print culture and book history, state formation, urban cultural history, space and politics, cities as texts, and in how people imagine and create their own senses of place.

Before coming to Cornell, I worked for four years at the Luis Ángel Arango library in Bogotá, Colombia, in exhibitions, research projects, and cultural publications.

Research Focus

My dissertation project explores books, bookstores, and printshops in Bogotá from the 1850s to the 1920s. I study what I call the world of books in Bogotá, a world formed by people (bookstore owners, printers, writers, and readers); spaces (bookstores, printshops, and reading spaces); and books themselves. I examine this world through the bookstores Librería Americana and Librería Colombiana, and the printshop Imprenta de “La Luz.” I seek to show how books engendered specific sets of relationships, such as labor regimes, networks of exchange, spatial practices and geographical imaginations.

Instead of seeing books as objects solely related to the realm of culture –and to notions of pleasure and aesthetics– I argue that they unveil the ways in which power operated in Colombia. I contend that precisely because of the “normalized” association of books with those “low-stake” realms (unlike infrastructure projects or extractive economies), they disguise the everyday workings of power. My dissertation, thereby, tries to answer two main questions: What was the role of books in strengthening, while simultaneously disguising, the links between cultural and political power in Colombia? And, how did bogotanos use books to create and imagine their city, and its place in a wider world? I contend that that world of books was not solely bogotano but that it was a global one as it was forged upon the lively circulation of books and ideas –back and forth– between different geographies. By connecting the local stories of books in Bogotá to circulations in the wider world, I unravel given and simple directionalities in knowledge production, and I study how books, bookstores, and printshops helped bogotanos in remaking their local space, in shaping geographical imaginations, and in envisioning other possible futures.

At Cornell, I work with Ray Craib and Ernesto Bassi. Eric Tagliacozzo is the other member of my committee.