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Playing Someone Else’s Music: the Intimate Distance of Indigeneity

A Lecture by Michelle Bigenho (Hampshire College)

Friday, February 22, 2013, 1:00pm

Classroom Office Building, Room 203

Michelle Bigenho will discuss her recently published book, Intimate Distance: Andean Music in Japan (Duke 2012), which draws on fieldwork with Bolivian musicians who tour Japan and Japanese who do much more than passively consume Andean music. Bolivian musicians have been touring Japan since the 1970s, often coming to rely heavily on these flexible labor contracts to sustain their economic and artistic goals at home. Japanese audiences have taken up these musical forms as hobbyists and even as professional musicians, often sojourning to Bolivia for extended periods. Framed as an “inter-area ethnography” Intimate Distance examines the globalization of Andean music, contemplating the diverse stagings of indigenous worlds in this process. Across geographic and cultural distances, Bolivians and Japanese involved in these musical practices often expressed a racialized narrative of intimacy that referenced shared indigenous ancestors who remained unnamed, prehistorically positioned, and disconnected from contemporary indigenous struggles. Besides outlining Andean music’s global route to Japan, Bigenho’s talk will interpret how these racialized narratives of intimate distance work at the center of different national projects.

Michelle Bigenho, associate professor of anthropology at Hampshire College’s School of Critical Social Inquiry, holds a B.A. in political science and Latin American studies from the University of California at Los Angeles; a “magister” in anthropology from the Pontifícia Universidad Católica del Perú; and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Cornell University. Her current research interests include indigeneity, creativity, alternatives to intellectual property, indigenous heritage, transnational cultural work, folklorization processes, and the politics of culture. She has received grants from the National Science Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, Fulbright IIE, and the Whiting Foundation, as well as fellowships from University of Cambridge’s Centre of Latin American Studies and University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute. Her first book was Sounding Indigenous: Authenticity in Bolivian Music Performance (Palgrave 2002). Music performance on the violin has formed a significant part of her research approach in Peru, Bolivia, and Japan. She has participated in over fourteen recordings with the Bolivian ensemble, Música de Maestros.