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What does it mean to play "someone else’s music"? Intimate Distance delves into this question through a focus on Bolivian musicians who tour Japan playing Andean music and Japanese audiences, who often go beyond fandom to take up these musical forms as hobbyists and even as professional musicians. Michelle Bigenho conducted part of her ethnographic research while performing with Bolivian musicians as they toured Japan. Drawing on interviews with Bolivian musicians as well as Japanese fans and performers of these traditions, Bigenho explores how transcultural intimacy is produced at the site of Andean music and its performances.
Bolivians and Japanese involved in these musical practices often express narratives of intimacy and racial belonging that reference shared but unspecified indigenous ancestors. Along with revealing the story of Bolivian music's route to Japan and interpreting the transnational staging of indigenous worlds, Bigenho examines these stories of closeness, thereby unsettling the East-West binary that often structures many discussions of cultural difference and exotic fantasy.
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Michelle Bigenho is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Hampshire College. She is the author of Sounding Indigenous: Authenticity in Bolivian Music Performance.Review:
"Michelle Bigenho does a brilliant job of combing the Japanese literature (in English), integrating theory, and pushing her own theoretical contribution. The creativity and analytic perspective of the approach makes the work add considerably to existing literature. To the ethnomusicological literature, Bigenho adds theoretical rigor and broad perspectives such as race projects, nationhood, and the ethnographic project. To the race literature, she adds a new transnational perspective that is grounded in performance."—Christine Yano, author of Airborne Dreams: "Nisei" Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways
"Michelle Bigenho's dazzling new book probes the fascinating, unexpected story of Japan's romance with Andean music. Her ethnography tacks between Bolivia and Japan, and illuminates an economy of music, livelihood, and attraction that Bigenho triangulates through her own research as an anthropologist and a mistress herself of the Andean fiddle. Her smart, sophisticated analysis speaks to debates about indigeneity, music and performance, and the dialectics of history, desire, and globalization in a multipolar world. It's a book as adroit, intricate, and sometimes very moving as the lilting Andean folk melodies that Bigenho and her Bolivian bandmates played so many nights as they toured throughout the islands."—Orin Starn, author of Ishi's Brain: In Search of America's Last "Wild" Indian
“Michelle Bigenho’s ambitious and valuable new book represents a welcome contribution on many fronts. Not only does this work introduce a little-known world of Japanese enthusiasts of Andean ‘folklore’ music, but it also reevaluates conceptual dichotomies in popular cultural studies.” (Taku Suzuki Journal of Asian Studies)
“The book provides a much-needed insight into one of the many complex and imbalanced instances of cultural exchange.” (Christiaan M. De Beukelaer Popular Music)
“On the whole, Intimate Distance is a useful addition to the existing literature regarding ethnomusicological theory, specifically as it pertains to musical globalization and appropriation.” (Tenley Martin Ethnomusicology Forum)
“The author masters a personal and self-reflexive narrative, yet maintains theoretical rigour, making this not only a helpful addition to anthropological and ethnomusicological literature, but also a book appealing to the non-specialized reader.” (Fiorella Montero Diaz Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute)
“Intimate Distance is a valuable contribution to the anthropology of music, particularly with regard to the originality of the author’s topic, analytical approaches, and methodology.” (Catherine Gauthier-Mercier Notes)
“Michelle Bigenho’s fascinating Intimate Distance is one of a growing number of recent multisited studies that explore a musical relationship in which Europe and North America are de-centered (as much as possible).” (E. Taylor Atkins Journal of Japanese Studies)
“Michelle Bigenho’s book is an excellent contribution to Latin American Studies, highlighting interdisciplinary connections with Asian Studies and ably conveying readers around the duality of Area Studies as the field was conceived after the Cold War.” (Zelideth Maria Rivas The Americas)
"Ultimately, Bigenho leaves her readers with an eloquent record of a transnational musical scene that may soon vanish despite the efforts of musical practitioners who reproduce intimacy and difference in their performance of indigenous Bolivian musical traditions that are not their own." (Shanna Lorenz Ethnohistory 2016-04-01)
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