Accepted Paper:

The role of the UNESCO declaration in developing an ethno-nationalism in the Andes  


Jonathan Alderman (Ludwig Maximilian University Munich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the role of UNESCO, through ICH, in projects of ethnonationalism. It focusses on the 2003 0UNESCO declaration of Kallawaya culture as Oral Heritage of Humanity, and the ethnonationalist project that followed, alongside the redefinition of Bolivia as a plurinational state.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will examine the role of ICH in the development of ethnonationalism. In 2003, UNESCO declared 'The Andean Cosmovision of Kallawaya Culture" as Oral Heritage of Humanity. The Kallawayas are a collection of indigenous Andean Bolivian communities best known for exercising their profession as healers. Exercising their profession as healers was illegal in Bolivia until 1987, and the Kallawayas were often regarded either as charlatans or wizards and witches (because their healing frequently involves making offerings to the local mountain gods). The postulation to UNESCO to recognise the value of Kallawaya culture was part of a concerted effort made by Kallawaya authorities over several decades to rehabilitate the reputation of the Kallawayas. From 2006, in the lead up to the writing of Bolivia's most recent constitution, which redefined Bolivia as a plurinational state, the Kallawayas have been identifying as a nation. The declaration by UNESCO is seen by many Kallawayas as significant in the construction of an ethnonational consciousness, because by giving the Kallawayas a platform to revindicate their cultural practices, it not only assisted a blossoming Kallawaya self-confidence, but became a weapon in a struggle to decolonise local social relations. The candidature was part of a deliberate effort to manage the image of the Kallawayas, and to change the discourse regarding what it means to be Kallawaya. However, it can also be seen as creating an orthodoxy of Kallawaya practices and freezing Kallawaya culture.

Panel P063
Heritage, beyond materiality: intangible cultural heritage, collaborative methodologies and imaginations of the future