From Indigenismo to Patrimonialismo: An Introduction to the Special Issue on Music and Cultural Heritage Making in Latin America

Michelle Bigenho, Henry Stobart, Richard Mújica Angulo

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Besides previewing the articles in the dossier, this introduction offers readers some guidance on the concept of “intangible heritage," its relationship to music, and its meanings in Latin American contexts. The introduction takes as a starting point the contention that heritage is not the same as culture, and that heritage necessarily builds on a consciousness of the idea of “culture” (in quotes), which emerges through interethnic journeys (Carneiro da Cunha 2009). Although music’s attributes might seem to have more in common with intangible than tangible heritage, closer consideration shows that this tangible/intangible distinction is more political than ontological. Intangible heritage ends up being like heritage’s Other, in turn reflecting inequalities that are replicated in administrative institutions. Despite UNESCO-derived initiatives, like its regional center CRESPIAL that promotes multi-county intangible cultural heritage listings, heritage-making processes vary widely across Latin America. They also often reflect local or nationalistic competitions, where heritage law may be
conceived as something almost like an alternative to intellectual property. Despite the sonic dimension of musical expressions, it is argued that transformations in global media have contributed to an emphasis on the visual; consequently, discussions about music heritage often focus on what is seen and not on what is heard. In relation to regional issues, we suggest that what we call "patrimonialismo" in many countries of Latin America is integral to the neoliberal and multicultural moment, but that it must also be understood as a successive phase linked to but distinct from twentieth-century state policies of indigenismo. In twenty-first century patrimonialismo, the Others are motivated to use their own "cultures" as a possible resource for extraction, as possible paths to development, and/or as new ways to lay claim to a series of rights. To close, we consider the roles of expertise and academic research in patrimonialismo.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalTRANS-Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


  • Heritage’s Other
  • the senses
  • patrimonialismo
  • indigenismo

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