Emotional Control   /   Spring 2010   /    Book Reviews

John L. and Jean Comaroff’s Ethnicity, Inc.

Michael F. Brown

To the best of my knowledge, the Miss Universe pageant is not widely known as a flashpoint for international conflict. During the 2009 competition, however, controversy was touched off when Miss Peru crossed the stage in a costume associated with the Andean tradition known as La Diablada or “Dance of the Devils.” Scarcely had the pageant concluded when Bolivia’s Minister of Cultures denounced this as an egregious appropriation of his nation’s cultural patrimony. Bolstering his claim was UnESCO’s 2001 certification of La Diablada as performed in Oruro, Bolivia, as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” no matter that the dance has also been performed for centuries in altiplano communities in Peru and Chile. Subsequent discussions in the Bolivian press revealed that the conflict is not only about national honor. Officials worry that Peru’s implicit claim to La Diablada could diminish tourist traffic to Ururo, where thousands travel to see the dance performed during the pre-Lenten carnival season.

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