Unsettling the return: Alternative curation and counterarchives

Michelle Bigenho, Henry Stobart

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In this article, we complicate the notion of sonic return in the context of postmillennial digital media technologies that have transformed how Indigenous people of the Bolivian Andes engage self-reflectively with their own music and dance practices. We take a capacious approach to the notion of the archive and argue that these media interactions, where people make and circulate their own audiovisual materials, represent a space of counterarchival work. We consider our distinct and changing approaches to sound recordings in our respective fieldwork and highlight how media-making agency has entered the hands of Indigenous actors. Notable here is a striking preference for the audiovisual over the solely audio, a preference that throws into relief the idea of the sound archive and its future. We point to alternative forms of audiovisual curation that may not be shaped to the ends foreign researchers might imagine, but that nevertheless might lead to more decolonized engagements of the future. We consider a video—created as part of a campaign for women's singing of Potosí to be legally recognized in heritage law—and explore how this seemingly outsider-focused audiovisual production involved Indigenous people in its making, reception, and recursive recirculation. We approach these issues by drawing on our multidecade and cross-disciplinary research trajectories in the Bolivian Andes and our more recent collaborative research on heritage lawmaking during the government of Evo Morales (2006–2019).
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Early online date9 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Aug 2023

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