Heritage Kinaesthetics: Local Constructivism of UNESCO’s Intangible-Tangible Politics at a Favela Museum
Writing practiced as walking and walking as writing, I explore the spatial phenomenology of urban revitalization, heritage, and cultural tourism through the ways in which a Brazilian community imagines its history and constructs its presence in practices of local constructivism of a heritage site. The site is Providencia, Rio de Janeiro’s oldest favela (shantytown) and the “Open-Air/ Living Museum” that the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro established in the neighborhood, by building an open-air tourist trail. How in the practice of heritage-making do the “locals” imagine the “local” cultural heritage? Do they affirm or modify the institutional (municipality, state, and UNESCO) conceptualizations of tangible and intangible heritage? And how does tourism connect to the conjuring of community cultural revival and economic improvements? I develop the concept of heritage kinaesthetics as the moving bodily practices that set the built environment – to be revitalized - alive and are a counterpart of heritage aesthetics, or the immobile quality usually ascribed to a historic site. The five main heritage kinaesthetics approaches that residents and visitors of Providencia’s Museum apply to mix tangible and intangible heritage for development include: visual (photographing; seeing), ambulatory (walking around as exploration), performative (enacting intangible cultural heritage such as samba, capoeira, football, and music; tour guides’ performances), oral (telling stories/imagining history), and acoustic (creating and listening to place-specific sounds). The kinetic energy of heritage aesthetics is finally placed within the larger context of Brazilian cultural policy around the museum as a cultural center.
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