Henry Stobart/Michelle Bigenho, 18 Feb 2016

Title of the Talk: Sounds of Bolivian Insurrection? Re-hearing Past and Future through a Regional Heritage Declaration

When? Thursday 18 February 2016 (17:00-18:30)

Where? The Barn at St John’s College (Kendrew Quad)

Speaker: Henry Stobart (Royal Holloway, University of London), presenting a text co-authored with Michelle Bigenho (Colgate University, USA)

Abstract: Despite UNESCO’s language of “safeguarding” and focus on cultural rights, intangible heritage declarations are often motivated by ownership claims or economic interests, such as tourism. Such a picture often holds true for the case of Bolivia where the lure of tourism futures and discourses of cultural theft―whether by neighbouring countries, regions or towns―are ubiquitous. Perhaps surprisingly, given its anti-neoliberal and decolonising rhetoric, such positions have become increasingly entrenched under the pro-indigenous government of President Evo Morales. Even the President himself of this now renamed Plurinational State has entered into hostilities with neighbouring countries over intangible heritage issues.

With an overwhelming focus on the visual images of costumes and instruments, heritage-making processes tend to muffle the musical sounds that are essential to these cultural expressions. By following heritage-making processes of mohoseñada—an Andean flute, a performance style, as well as whole way of being in the world—this paper turns up the volume on the soundscapes of heritage to reveal seemingly paradoxical intersections of military sounds and indigenous insurrectional histories. We explore the implicit boundaries of what makes for acceptable heritage in the international context, details a heritage archive of insurrectional heroes who are etched in the landscape through heritage performance practices, and provides a glimpse of what indigenous autonomies might look like in the heritage idiom.

Speaker Biographies: Henry Stobart is Reader in Music/Ethnomusicology in the Music Department of Royal Holloway, he is the founder and co-ordinator of the UK Latin American Music Seminar and Associate Fellow of the Institute of Latin American Studies. He studied tuba and recorder at Birmingham Conservatoire, performed with a number of baroque ensembles, and taught music in several schools, before completing a PhD (1996) at St John’s College, Cambridge focused on the music of a Quechua speaking herding and agricultural community of Northern Potosí, Bolivia. Following a research fellowship at Darwin College Cambridge he was appointed as the first lecturer in Ethnomusicology at Royal Holloway in 1999. His books include Music and the Poetics of Production in the Bolivian Andes (Ashgate 2006), the edited volume The New (Ethno)musicologies(Scarecrow, 2008), Knowledge and Learning in the Andes: Ethnographic Perspectives, co-edited with Rosaleen Howard (Liverpool University Press 2002), and the interdisciplinary volume Sound, co-edited with Patricia Kruth (Cambridge University Press, 2000). Henry is also active as a professional performer with the Early/World Music ensemble SIRINU, who have given hundreds of concerts and recorded on many European radio networks since their first Early Music Network tour in 1992.

Michelle Bigenho is a sociocultural anthropologist with current research interests in indigeneity, cultural property, performance, transnational cultural work, indigenous heritage, folklorization processes, and the politics of culture. Based on fieldwork in Peru, Bolivia, and Japan, her theoretical frameworks have included intimacies in relation to political subjectivities, ritual analysis as applied to nation-states, performance and performativity, embodiment and memory, phenomenological approaches to the political, and the law in everyday life. Performance as a violinist has significantly shaped her fieldwork encounters and have participated in numerous recordings with the Bolivian ensemble, Música de Maestros. Her work has been published as articles, book chapters, and in two monographs: Intimate Distance: Andean Music in Japan (Duke 2012) and Sounding Indigenous: Authenticity in Bolivian Music Performance (Palgrave 2002). She is currently working on a collaborative project that received National Science Foundation funding: “Cultural Property, Creativity, and Indigeneity in Bolivia,” with Henry Stobart (Co-PI, Royal Holloway University of London), Juan Carlos Cordero (Bolivia) and Bernardo Rozo (Bolivia).

Convenor: Jason Stanyek (Associate Professor; Fellow and Tutor, St. John’s College)


Event hosted as part of the Seminar in Ethnomusicology and Sound Studies Series, based at St John’s College, University of Oxford.


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