Gender-marked Heritage and Intersectionality: Women’s Singing as Heritage

Henry Stobart, Michelle Bigenho

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Abstract

This article charts a yet unsuccessful attempt to have a gender-marked musical expression legally recognised as heritage: ‘women’s singing’ of Potosí, Bolivia. Drawing on interviews and ethnographic fieldwork in Bolivian contexts, the authors read the gender-marked status of this initiative as a symbolic site of intercultural disjunctures. Conflicting gender politics sit at the crux of this difficulty to assemble ‘women's singing’ as a heritage object, contradictions between Bolivia’s persistent neoliberal state in which feminist discourses of gender equality reign within a development apparatus, and a plurinational state that originally emerged from social movements that brought Indigenous concepts into governing practices. Expanding on the topic of gender in heritage studies, this work points to critical applications of intersectionality, and uncovers useful openings that this concept lends to heritage studies in general. Through an intersectional lens, key inconsistencies are revealed between a liberal feminist agenda that focusses on empowering stand-alone women and Indigenous working class women’s mobilisation politics that cannot address gender inequalities without also engaging class and ethnic marginalisation. The case study shows how social justice mobilisations, central to political intersectionality, productively disrupt the compartmentalised approaches to rights that usually operate in bureaucratised governing entities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Sep 2022

Keywords

  • gender-marked heritage
  • intersectionality
  • political intersectionality
  • gender complementarity
  • Bolivia

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