Ernesto Capello’s City at the Center of the World does not read like a first book based in part on doctoral research. Many such books are well-developed case studies that draw on new archival materials and contribute richly to our knowledge of social life and people’s experience in specific historical moments and locations, and yet could be characterized as relatively modest in scope. This book is a more impressive achievement.

The book’s title refers to the location of Quito near the equator, at the center of the world. Capello uses Bakhtin’s concept of chronotopes, or narrative configurations of space and time, to explore various ways that specific social groups imagined the city of Quito and its past, present, and future, and how they acted in and upon it. The chapters explore six different chronotopes articulated by very different groups in the early...

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