Heritage Fever: Law and Cultural Politics in a Decolonizing Bolivia

Henry Stobart, Michelle Bigenho

Research output: Book/ReportBook


A full book draft of thie co-authored monograph was submitted to Duke in August 2017. A first reviewer (clearly a heritage scholar) wrote that the book was very Latin American focused, and on this basis Duke was not sure they could publish but welcomed resubmitting a revised version. A second review (which arrived after this decision) was extremely positive but advised contesting the UNESCO driven heritage scholarship (as the book does) more explicitly and stressing our argument about how heritage is linked to the politics of decolonization. We are in the process of revising the book and plan to send the manuscript to multiple publishers early in 2019. (This is the primary focus of HS's current sabbatical)

Brief Summary [of earlier draft of book]
Why are Bolivians so wrapped up in getting their music and dance expressions legally declared as intangible cultural heritage? An anthropologist and an ethnomusicologist who have been working on questions of music and culture in Bolivia over the last twenty and thirty years co-author an ethnography of heritage making that addresses the significance of these 21st century ways of assigning values to culture. Heritage Fever introduces the reader to the contested keywords of UNESCO heritage making, including the term "intangible heritage" that has entered global heritage parlance since the 2003 UNESCO Convention. Recent Bolivian heritage making has taken the specific form of declaratory laws--legal and bureaucratic processes that provide glimpses of state-civil society relations in a moment when the government has put indigeneity at its core and decolonization on its explicitly stated agenda. While the rush to law may look, at first glance, like strategies to move culture into property-like frames, Heritage Fever unsettles that reading. Based on several case studies, the book follows protagonists' stories in these declaratory processes, narratives that reveal an array of political articulations, including nationalist rivalries with neighboring countries, internal tensions across unequal terrains of those who claim native rural expressions and those who dance their urban folklorized renditions, attempts to link heritage with common global NGO funding agendas like "gender" and "women," and long-term projects that draw on memories of insurgency and aspirations of indigenous autonomy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2019

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