From cartonera publishing practices to trans-formal methods for qualitiative research

Lucy Bell, Alex Flynn, Patrick O'Hare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity and counter-disciplinarity are the hallmark of cultural studies and qualitative research, as scholars over the past three decades have discussed through extensive self-reflexive inquiry into their own unstable and ever-shifting methods (Denzin and Lincoln, 2018; Dicks et al., 2006: 78; Grossberg, 2010). Building on the interdisciplinary thought of Jacques Rancière and Caroline Levine on the one hand and traditions of participatory action research and activist anthropology on the other, we bring the methods conversation forward by shifting the focus from disciplines to forms and by making a case for aesthetic practice as qualitative research process. In this paper, the question of methods is approached through the action-based Cartonera Publishing Project with editoriales cartoneras in Latin America – community publishers who make low-cost books out of materials recovered from the street in the attempt to democratise and decolonise literary/artistic production – and specifically through our process-oriented, collaborative work with four cartonera publishers in Brazil and Mexico. Guided by the multiple forms of cartonera knowledge production, which are rooted not in academic research but rather in aesthetic practice and community relations, we offer an innovative ‘trans-formal’ methodological framework, which opens up new pathways for practitioners and researchers to work, think and act across social, cultural and aesthetic forms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research
VolumeOnline First
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 May 2020


  • Qualitative research
  • Qualitative methods
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Cultural studies
  • Anthropology
  • Aesthetics
  • Collaborative research
  • Ethnography
  • Cartonera


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