The Devil in Nationalism: Indigenous Heritage and the Challenges of Decolonization

Michelle Bigenho, Henry Stobart

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In 2006, Bolivians began living under their first indigenous president and undergoing an explicitly pro-indigenous “process of change,” alongside much rhetoric of indigenous autonomy and state “decolonization.” However, this article suggests that this same government’s 21st century policies regarding intangible heritage and “culture” hardly mark a departure from mid-20th century mestizo-dominated liberal nationalist projects. Through ethnography of disputed cultural claims to folklore, such as those with Peru involving the devil dance, this paper examines how proprietary nationalism is experienced and expressed among certain Bolivians. For example, indignant internationally touring folklore workers imagine a hyperreal scarcity of specific expressions that have become framed as “cultural resources” for the nation. Indeed, it was common to hear propertied language employed when international disputes heated up—as cultural images circulated at high speeds through social networks and digital media. Within these media platforms, the visual sensory mode often overshadows aural and kinesthetic ones, as socially interwoven music and dance expressions fade into the background and stand-alone images of spectacular costumes move forward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-166
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Cultural Property
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2016

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