Culture Works

Space, Value, and Mobility Across the Neoliberal Americas

241 pages

28 halftones

April, 2012

ISBN: 9780814744307



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Arlene Dávila is Professor of Anthropology and American Studies at NYU.  Her books include Culture Works: Space, Value and Mobility Across the Neoliberal Americas (2012) and Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race (2008), both available from NYU Press.

All books by Arlene Dávila

Culture Works addresses and critiques an important dimension of the “work of culture,”  an argument made by enthusiasts of creative economies that culture contributes to the GDP, employment, social cohesion, and other forms of neoliberal development. While culture does make important contributions to national and urban economies, the incentives and benefits of participating in this economy are not distributed equally, due to restructuring that neoliberal policies have wrought from the 1980s on, as well as enduring inequalities of race, class and nationality. The cultural economy promises to make life better, particularly in cities, but not everyone can take advantage of it for decent jobs.
Exposing and challenging the taken-for-granted assumptions around questions of space, value and mobility that are sustained by neoliberal treatments of culture, Culture Works explores some of the hierarchies of cultural workers that these engender, as they play out in a variety of settings, from shopping malls in Puerto Rico and art galleries in New York to tango tourism in Buenos Aires. Noted scholar Arlene Dávila brilliantly reveals how similar dynamics of space, value and mobility come to bear in each location, inspiring particular cultural politics that have repercussions that are both geographically specific, but also ultimately global in scope. 


  • "Culture Works looks deeply into and beyond the current rhetoric on art with an acuity and sense of irony and understanding of the realpolitiks that are all too rare in the cultural policy literature. Professor Dávila has given us a brilliant introduction and guide to the complex interactions of art, markets, politics, and community in the first part of the 21st century."

    —Paul DiMaggio, author of Nonprofit Enterprise in the Arts

  • "Culture Works challenges us to think critically about Latino/a culture and the men and women who create it every day. From shopping malls in Puerto Rico to art galleries in East Harlem and tango palaces in Bueños Aires, Arlene Dávila shows us the underbelly of a global political economy that gorges itself on authentic cultural forms and grinds them down into commodities. Dávila’s understanding of these complex forces illuminates the connections between all creative landscapes and the elites who try to mold them to their political will."

    —Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places

  • "The author effectively dissects the contradictory and often deleterious impact of neoliberal development in promoting inequalities of race, class, and nationality, while at the same time encoding and keying the value of Latin American folk art traditions and cultural economies...highly recommended for all academic levels/libraries."