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Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, a professor of Sociology at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés in La Paz, came to the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures as a visiting professor in January and February of 2007. During her visit, I assisted her in conducting research on the subject classification of works on coca in North American libraries for a chapter in her forthcoming book.

Rivera has a longstanding interest in the subject treatment of library materials from Bolivia and in how classification practices and trends have changed over time. Her 2003 book Las fronteras de la coca: epistemologías coloniales y circuitos alternativos de la hoja de coca: el caso de la frontera boliviano-argentina includes a chapter entitled "La coca en una biblioteca del norte: una experiencia etnográfica,” which is based on informal observations on the classification of works on coca at the library at the University of Texas, where she was a visiting professor in 2001. She found that the criminalization of coca in the United States extends to the classification of books about it in libraries - she saw that some works on the traditional use of the coca leaf in Andean culture had been shelved with works about drug abuse or narcotics traffic, and she wondered how frequently this happened, and the meaning of the various Library of Congress Classification numbers she found assigned to works on coca.

In our research at the University of Pittsburgh, Rivera and I looked at the LC classification numbers most frequently assigned to works on coca, and explored how classification practices changed over time. This presentation will discuss the findings of this research from a cataloging perspective, and general issues of bias in subject classification practices. Trends in the classification of materials on coca appeared to correspond broadly with shifts in U.S. foreign policy and perspectives, and to present an inflated picture of the proportion of published works on coca that treat it as question of social pathology or crime.