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Faculty Feature: Michelle Bigenho

Submitted by on July 22, 2013 – 9:24 amNo Comment

Michelle Bigenho, associate professor of anthropology and Latin American studies, holds a B.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles in political science and Latin American studies; 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, alternatives to intellectual property, transnational cultural work, indigenous heritage, folklorization processes, and the politics of culture. She is currently heading up an NSF-funded collaborative project entitled Cultural Property, Creativity, and Indigeneity in Bolivia, with Henry Stobart (Royal Holloway University of London), Juan Carlos Cordero (Bolivia) and Bernardo Rozo (Bolivia).

Her second monograph, Intimate Distance: Andean Music in Japan (Duke 2012) received a prize from the Latin American Studies Association, Asia and the Americas Section. Her other publications include Sounding Indigenous: Authenticity in Bolivian Music Performance (Palgrave 2002), chapters in several edited volumes and articles published in American Ethnologist, Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Anthropological Quarterly, and Journal of Latin American Anthropology.
For more on Michelle Bigenho, please visit her hampedia page.

Selected Courses

Indigenous Politics of Latin America (Spring 2013)

On January 1, 1994 the Zapatistas captured the attention of the world with an uprising against the unchecked advances of globalization and its specific effects in Mexican society. This uprising, like other Latin American social movements of the late 20th century, has drawn on the organizational and symbolic power of indigenous identities. In the past, museum displays and ethnographic texts on Latin America have contributed to the idea of frozen indigenous cultures, comprised of primordial essences-cultures already lost or facing the threat of imminent disappearance in the modern world. As an alternative, this course presents a dynamic view of what it means to be indigenous in Latin American contexts. The course will be taught through the disciplinary lens of anthropology and readings will be drawn from case studies in Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Depending on the Spanish language capabilities of the students who take this course, part of the course may be conducted in Spanish. Some of the texts will be available in Spanish and students may choose to write their work in the Spanish language.

Who Owns Culture? Fall 2013

This is an anthropology course on intellectual property (IP) and heritage. While IP regimes claim to balance an incentive for creators with the needs of society at large, expanding realms of IP protection have some people decrying an endless process of commodification, a closing down of the creative commons, and a transnational arrangement that favors the global North and disadvantages the global South. With reference to critical anthropological literature, this course examines IP and heritage regimes in reference to their philosophical origins, their applications in music and expressive arts, their unmooring in cyberspace, their contested applications in indigenous societies, and their transnational implications. Prerequisites: Students must have completed their first year of college work.