Brazil (BR); Cultural Identity (THE_382); Policy Making (THE_16107);
In this essay, we present a comparative analysis of the UNESCO heritage nomination process for two African Diaspora music and dance forms: samba de roda, from the Bahian Recôncavo (a coastal area of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia), and maloya, from Reunion Island (a former French colony in the Indian Ocean, which is now officially an “overseas department of France”). Samba de roda, as the Brazilian candidate, was included in the III Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity, in 2005. And maloya, the French candidate, was inscribed onto the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, in 2009. Despite a number of formal commonalities between samba de roda and maloya, such as responsorial singing, choreography, and the main musical instrument types, the controversies raised during their respective processes of nomination were quite distinct. The former is regarded as a traditional and less well known style of samba, the musical genre widely recognized as the musical emblem of Brazil. The latter competes with séga—a genre of popular music consolidated in the local media—for the position of chief musical representative of Reunion Island. The disparate symbolic identities attributed to these musical expressions pave the way for a distinct manner of employing the international resources related to the safeguarding of intangible heritage. This suggests that the local impact of the inclusion onto international lists depends as much on the contextual particularities of each candidacy as on central decision-making bodies such as UNESCO.