While the City Sleeps is an extraordinary work of scholarship from one of Argentina’s leading historians of modern Buenos Aires society and culture. In the late nineteenth century, the city saw a massive population boom and large-scale urban development. With these changes came rampant crime, a chaotic environment in the streets, and intense class conflict. In response, the state expanded institutions that were intended to bring about social order and control. Lila Caimari mines both police records and true crime reporting to bring to life the underworld pistoleros, the policemen who fought them, and the crime journalists who brought the conflicts to light. In the process, she crafts a new portrait of the rise of one of the world’s greatest cities.
Lila Caimari is an Independent Researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina, where she studies and teaches the history of crime, journalism, and urban culture. She is the author of several books, including Perón y la Iglesia católica: Religión, Estado y sociedad en la Argentina, 1943–1955 and Apenas un delincuente: Crimen, castigo y cultura en la Argentina, 1880–1955.
“Just when we thought that everything had been said about Buenos Aires in the 1920s and 1930s, Lila Caimari unfolds a new map of the city. Drawn with a virtuoso mix of conceptual innovation, archival revelation, and narrative inspiration, this map moves from the margins to the center. Life in that booming metropolis is reconstructed in all its challenges, intensities, and uncertainties.”—Adrián Gorelik, author of La grilla y el parque and Miradas sobre Buenos Aires
“Lila Caimari’s While the City Sleeps is one of the very best works of modern Argentine social or cultural history to come out in the past decade. Methodologically astute and extraordinarily creative, this work makes productive use of a collection of sources that has been largely ignored by historians: the archives of the Buenos Aires police. The questions Caimari raises about the relationship between the police, popular culture, and the construction of the social order are of vital importance well beyond the field of Argentine history.”—Matthew B. Karush, Geroge Mason University
“Crime history, cultural history and social history are combined in this great book, providing a magnificent reconstruction of Buenos Aires at a decisive time of its history. ”—Roy Hora, Conicet/ UNQ, Argentina
“While the City Sleeps is an original contribution to our understanding of the tensions generated by the modernization process in Buenos Aires between 1920 and 1945. In this truly fascinating study, Lila Caimari shows how the ‘spectacle’ of crime and policing both reflected and shaped the experience of demographic growth, urban expansion, technological innovation, immigration, and the growing state regulation of public order.”—Carlos Aguirre, University of Oregon
“Lila Caimari surpasses the existing literature on the history of crime in Buenos Aires in terms of both scope and depth. Her inclusion of the suburbs of the city and networks throughout the urban-suburban region; her analysis of media and advertising; and her incorporation of technical, political, material, and cultural evidence results in a more fine-tuned and comprehensive cultural/political study than any other before.”—Julia Rodriguez, University of New Hampshire