11.30  Tango: Production and Circulations of Heritage Meanings

Sunday 05 Jun 09:00 AM (30 minutes)

The Argentinian and Uruguayan tradition of the Tango was inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, with a spatial reference to the Rio de la Plata basin, and more specifically Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Nevertheless, the scales of meaning and production of tango are regional, national and global. Indeed, as a tradition, the tango is defined as the result of the merging of various populations in the region at the beginning of the twentieth century: migrants, local inhabitants, and slaves. Since the 1990s, the tango in Argentina has become institutionalized as a national heritage, embodying the quintessence of Argentine identity, and is closely associated to the city of Buenos Aires, and especially to some urban spaces (La Boca, el Abasto, thematized as Gardel’s neighbourhoods) and types of places (the milongas, regarded as traditional places to dance tango). This dynamic also gave birth to new institutions such as the National Academy of Tango and its museum. So the tango as intangible heritage is spatialized. 

However, this recognition of tango as heritage can also be analyzed through the lens of globalized transnational practices, from the end of the twentieth century. The meanings of tango are discussed within the heritage arena; UNESCO being both a protagonist of the heritagization processes and a mediator solicited by the other stakeholders. The debate on the definition of tango as heritage, the modalities of its preservation and revitalization occur at different scales and focus on different dimensions and scales of the practice. Which tango has to be recognized as an immaterial heritage? The tango performance of the argentinian and uruguayan cabarets (“tanguerias”), or the “tango milonga” where the public and the performers are one? What are the border and the territory of the tango community? 

Tango clubs are created all around the world, Argentinian musicians are performing in multiple festivals in Europe, many practitioners are traveling to Buenos Aires as tourists to perform tango, leading to a delocalization of the production of tango significance. Thus, which is the meaning of the territorial delimitation of the UNESCO inscription? The objective of this paper is to analyze the different scales of production of discourses and practices of tango. Based on a multi-sited research project in Paris and Buenos Aires analyzing the circulations of expertise and practitioners, the main idea will be to discuss and question the traditional association of heritage, territory and identity, and on the contrary to analyze the effects of these circulations on local identification and significance of the tango as intangible heritage.

Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne

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