Archiving Expertise and Aspiring to Heritage

Michelle Bigenho, Henry Stobart

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Anthropologists and ethnomusychologists are sometimes invited to assume the roles of "experts" in relation to the public policies of their fields. Starting from ethnographic work on patrimonialization processes in Bolivia, this article reflects on the position of "culture" researchers in these processes. In Bolivia of the 21st century, these processes have taken shape through laws that declare a single cultural expression as "intangible heritage." The protagonists who make heritage assemble "archives of aspirations" (Appadurai), gathering research from various sources. This work focuses on this link between "research" and a political-legal objective or a development project. Taking into account that no production of knowledge is outside a political framework, the effects of what Manuela Carneiro Da Cunha calls "the round trip" of colonial products in the production of expert knowledge about "culture" are considered and in the patrimonialization processes. We propose that although the 2003 UNESCO Convention makes room for the same "cultural bearers" to become "experts" of their own culture, and although the Bolivian State intends to push the decolonizing processes, we find a world of patrimonialization in which the expertise that is produced through inter-ethnic culture trips is still valued.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalTRANS-Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • intangible heritage
  • decolonization
  • research

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