Accepted Paper:

Ethnic identity on records: intangible heritage politics in an Afro-Descendant Latin American musical compilation  


Rodrigo Chocano (Indiana University)

Paper short abstract:

The connection between music and Afro-descendant heritage politics in Latin America is explored through the study of an international musical production. The political struggles in this process portray intangible heritage as an arena in which national and ethnic representation is disputed.

Paper long abstract:

The album "Cantos y música Afrodescendientes de América Latina", which compiles music of Afro-descendant communities from 13 countries in Latin America, was issued in 2012. It was the first product of an intergovernmental project aimed to safeguard the intangible heritage of Afro Descendant communities in Latin America, which involves the ministries of culture of 13 countries.

The process behind the production of this album provides a privileged view of musical heritagisation processes in Latin America. First, this album is the product of an international debate about which music should be included in this compilation, involving musicians, researchers, activists, bureaucrats and politicians discussing musical aesthetics, safeguarding opportunities and political interests. Second, it involves the formal and informal political negotiations held in order to translate this debate into an actual production. And third, it shows the complex national and international bureaucratic dynamics involved in heritagisation processes.

In this paper, through the study of this musical production, I explore the relationship between music and Afro-descendant heritage politics in Latin America. I argue that musical initiatives held under the framework of intangible cultural heritage are sites in which different ideas about traditional musical aesthetics, goals of heritage safeguarding and political interests towards heritage conflate and are contested. I also argue that products like this album, rather than achieving a single safeguarding goal, are the result of complex political negotiations and therefore meet the objectives of several agents at different levels, which are not necessarily related to music.

Panel Heri006
Heritage as social, economic and utopian resource