Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The constitution of heritage

In 1993 I wrote the following about the blues revival of the 1960s: "Those of us who participated in the revival thought we had discovered an object called blues, which we then set out to think about, document, analyze, and in some cases, perform. Instead, by our interpretive acts, we constructed the very thing we thought we had found."* The same is true of music when it is sustained as cultural heritage. It's not new in 2008 to think about heritage as made, not found; but it is no less relevant now than it was in 1993. The paradox is that the heritage industry behaves as if heritage is discovered, not constructed; and then it sets about to construct (or constitute) a representation of what it supposes it has discovered.

A related post on this blog is "The paradox of authenticity."

*Jeff Todd Titon, "Reconstructing the Blues: Reflections on the 1960s Blues Revival," in Transforming Tradition, ed. Neil Rosenberg. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993, pp. 222-223.

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