Michelle Bigenho

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Michelle Bigenho

Charles A. Dana Professor of Anthropology and Africana & Latin American Studies

I am a socio-cultural anthropologist whose specializations include indigeneity, law, music, and performance studies in the Andean region. My work engages indigeneity at its intersections with alternative and participatory methodologies, cultural and intellectual property, heritage politics, racialization, performance politics, and nationalism. My research—currently published in two monographs and multiple articles and chapters--has involved ethnography in Bolivia since 1993, each project engaging local communities in distinct ways. Music performance on the violin has formed an integral part of my ethnographic approach. 

My current work, in collaboration with Henry Stobart (Music, Royal Holloway U. of London), began in 2012 with a National Science Foundation-funded workshop on indigeneity, cultural property, and heritage within the context of Bolivia’s pro-indigenous “process of change” and the implementation of the country’s recently minted Constitution (2009). The workshop conversations, methodologies and resources can be seen in the Spanish-English bilingual website, “Rethinking Creativity, Recognition, and Indigenous Heritage.” Following the Workshop experience, Stobart and I began a related inquiry titled “Beyond Indigenous Heritage Paradoxes in Evo Morales’ Bolivia,” a project for which we received an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship.

To download some of my publications, please see my academia.edu site.

I enjoy bringing my general research questions and practices into my teaching. In 2017 and 2019, I taught  a course on performing Bolivian music (ALST 204). Taught in conjunction with a residency of Bolivian musicians, this course was featured in The Colgate Scene and in this video:

A course called “Who Owns Culture?” (ANTH 244) goes to the heart of debates that motivate my most current research on cultural heritage. Other courses I teach include: ANTH 102 Culture, Diversity, Inequality; ANTH 211 Investigating Contemporary Cultures; ANTH/ALST 357 Indigenous Politics of Latin America; ANTH/ALST 365 Andean Lives; Core 199C Bolivia; and UNST/ALST 350 Interdisciplinary Methods Seminar.

2023 "Unsettling the Return: Alternative Curation and Counter-Archives," (co-author H. Stobart) Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 

2022 "'¡Qué me entierran con poncho y sombrero!': Canto, género, y la constitución moderna," Contrapunto: Revista de Musicología 2: 224-248. 

2022 "Gender-marked Heritage and Intersectionality: Women's Singing as Heritage," (co-author H. Stobart) International Journal of Heritage Studies 28 (10): 1121-1135.

2018 “Del indigenismo al patrimonialismo: una introducción al dossier sobre música y patrimonio cultural en América Latina,”(with H. Stobart and Richard Mújica Angulo) Trans-Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review21-22: 1-21.

2018 “From Indigenismo to Patrimonialismo: An Introduction to the Special Issue on Music and Cultural Heritage in Latin America,”(with H. Stobart and Richard Mújica Angulo) Trans-Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review21-22: 1-21.

2018 "Archiving Expertise and Aspiring to Heritage,"(co-author, H. Stobart) Trans-Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review21-22: 1-13.

2018 “Archivando la pericia con miras al patrimonio: Procesos de patrimonialización, conocimiento experto, y el archivo como aspiración,”(co-author H. Stobart)Trans-Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review21-22: 1-13.

2018 "Grasping Cacophony in Bolivian Heritage Otherwise," (co-author H. Stobart) Anthropological Quarterly 91(4):1329-1364. 

2016 “Love, Protest Dance, Remix,” In Global Latin America, Matthew Gutmann and Jeffrey Lesser, eds., Pp. 114-127. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2016 “The Devil in Nationalism: Indigenous Heritage and the Challenges of Decolonization,” (co-author H. Stobart) International Journal of Cultural Property 23 (2):141-166.

2015 “Playing Piano without a Piano in Bolivia,” In A World of Work: Imagined Manuals for Real Jobs, Ilana Gershon, ed. Pp. 102-113. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

2015 “La propiedad intelectual y las ambiguedades del dominio público: casos de la producción musical y la patrimonialización,” team-authored with Juan Carlos Cordero, Richard Mújica, Bernardo Rozo, and Henry Stobart) In Lo público en la pluralidad: Ensayos desde Bolivia y América Latina, Gonzalo Rojas Ortuste, coord. Pp. 131-161. La Paz, Bolivia: CIDES-UMSA.

2015 “Creativity, Recognition, and Indigenous Heritage: New Resource for Rethinking Intellectual Property,” Anthropology News, October.

2014 “The Problems of Controlling Arts and Cultures in Bolivia: An Ethnographic Report,” (co-authored with Henry Stobart) LASA Forum XLV (2): 22-25.

2012 “La música boliviana en la circulación global: nexos con el Japón,” Anales de la Reunión Anual de Etnología, 2009. Pp. 201-206. La Paz: MUSEF.

2011 “Outside the Music Box: A Manifesto,” Anthropology News, January, 12.

2010 “Note from the Editors: Performance, Revolution, Pedagogy: Theatre and its Objects,” (with Alberto Guevara), InTensions 4 (fall): 1-12.

2009 “Para repensar el mestizaje boliviano a través del folklore boliviano: la reorganización del espacio urbano compartido en la Revolución de 1952,” In Estudios urbanos: En la encrucijada de la interdisciplinaridad, Fernanda Wanderley, Coordinadora. Pp. 243-268. La Paz CIDES-UMSA.

2009 “To Sell or Not to Sell the Pomade: Andean Music Boom Stories and Bolivian Nationalism,” Diagonal: Journal of the Center for Iberian and Latin American Music (on-line, UC Riverside). 2:  1-18.

2008 “Why I’m not an Ethnomusicologist: A View from Anthropology,” In The New (Ethno)musicologies, Henry Stobart, ed. Pp. 28-39. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press (Europea: Ethnomusicologies and Modernities, No. 8).

2007 “Bolivian Indigeneity in Japan: Folklorized Music Performance,” In Indigenous Experience Today, Marisol de la Cadena, Orin Starn, eds. Pp. 247-272. Oxford: Berg. 

2006 “Embodied Matters: Bolivian Fantasy and Indigenismo,” Journal of Latin American Anthropology 11 (2): 267-293.  
2006 “Inter-area Ethnography: A Latin Americanist in Japan,” Anthropological Quarterly 79 (4): 667-690.

2006 “Laboring in the Transnational Culture Mines: the Work of Bolivian Music in Japan,” In Culture and Development in a Globalizing World: Geographies, Actors, and Paradigms, Sarah Radcliffe, ed. Pp. 107-125. London and New York: Routledge.

2005 “Making Music Safe for the Nation: Folklore Pioneers in Bolivian Indigenism,” In Natives Making Nation: Gender, Indigeneity and the State in the Andes, Andrew Canessa, ed. Pp. 60-80.Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

2004 “Why They don’t All Wax Nostalgic: Comparing Modernities Through Songs from the Bolivian Andes,” In Quechua Verbal Artistry: The Inscription of Andean Voices/ Arte expresivo quechua: la inscripción de voces andinas, Guillermo Delgado and John Schechter, eds. Pp. 263-297. Bonn, Germany: Bonn Americanist Studies-BAS/Shaker Verlag.

2001 "Political Economy of Pleasure," co-authored with Bethany Ogdon, Political and Legal Anthropology Review 24 (1): 155-161.

2001 "Propiedad indígena, patrimonio, y la nueva tasa?"  In Anales de la Reunión Anual de Etnología, 2000. Pp. 127-131. La Paz: MUSEF.

2001 "¿Por qué no todos sienten nostalgia? Letras de canciones e interpretaciones en Yura y Toropalca (Potosí, Bolivia)," In Identidades representadas: performance, experiencia y memoria en los andes, Gisela Canepa Koch, ed. Pp. 61-92. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú.

1999 "Sensing Locality in Yura: Rituals of Carnival and of the Bolivian State,” American Ethnologist 26 (4): 957-980.

1998 "Coca as a Musical Trope of Bolivian Nation-ness," Political and Legal Anthropology Review 21 (1): 114-122.

1996 "Imaginando lo imaginado: las narrativas de las naciones bolivianas," Revista andina, Año 14 (2): 471-507.

1996 "Participación popular en el centro y sudeste de Potosí: una visión panorámica de las organizaciones territoriales de base, 'OTB's," (con Huáscar José Cajías) Anales de la Reunión Anual de Etnología, 1995 (tomo II). Pp. 198-206. La Paz: MUSEF.

1993 "El baile de los negritos y la danza de las tijeras: Un manejo de contradicciones," In Música, danzas y máscaras en los Andes. Raúl Romero, editor. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú-Instituto Riva Agüero/Proyecto Preservación de la Música Tradicional Andina, Pp. 219-251 (2nd ed. 1997).

2018 Dossier especial: Música y patrimonio cultural en América Latina, (co-edited with Henry Stobart and Richard Mújica Angulo ) Trans-Revista Transcultural de Música/Transcultural Music Review 21-22. 

2010 Performance, Revolution, Pedagogy: Theatre and its Objects, co-edited with Alberto Guevara, on-line journal InTensions 4 (fall).

2014 “Repensando la creatividad, el reconocimiento, y el patrimonio indígena" bilingual (English/Spanish) website about workshop held in Coroico, Bolivia (2012) (curated with Henry Stobart), funded by National Science Foundation.

  • American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Fellowship (with H. Stobart) 2015-16 
  • National Science Foundation grant (Co-PI H. Stobart)(Law and Social Sciences), 2012 
  • Writing Prize for Intimate Distance: Andean Music in Japan. Asia and the Americas Section of the Latin American Studies Association, 2012 
  • Humanities Institute External Residential Fellowship, University of Connecticut, 2006-07 
  • Whiting Fellowship, 2003 
  • University of Cambridge Centre of Latin American Studies Visiting Fellowship, 1998 
  • Fulbright Hays 12-month Doctoral Dissertation grant, 1994 
  • Fulbright IIE fixed-sum 10-month grant, 1993 
  • Phi Beta Kappa
  • Association for Political and Legal Anthropology (American Anthropological Association): appointed board member (mentoring committee) 2022-23; appointed board member 2011-2013; elected board member 2009-2011; elected board member 2001-2003
  • Latin American Studies Association, appointed track co-chair for "Otros Saberes and Alternative Methods," 2017
  • Latin American Studies Association, appointed track co-chair for "Culture, Power and Political Subjectivities," 2010
  • Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Editorial board member, 1998-2018
  • InTensions e-journal, Member, editorial collective member of 2009-present
A musical performance groups plays instruments in matching black hats

My ethnographic work has involved music performance on the violin with a Bolivian music ensemble called Música de Maestros (Rolando Encinas, founder and director). Musicians from this group co-teach with me “Performing Bolivian Music,” a course featured in the video on this site (ALST 204). Since 1993, I have participated in performances, tours and compact disc recordings with this orchestra, giving concerts throughout Bolivia and also in Colombia, France, and Japan. During a visit in October 2022—my first to Bolivia since the pandemic started—I rejoined the group for a concert in the Teatro Nuna and then for a noche de cuecas in the Hotel Torino.



  • Colgate University, 2014–present
  • Hampshire College, 1998–2013
  • BA (Political Science and Latin American Studies), University of California Los Angeles 1988
  • "Magister" (Antropología) Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú 1991
  • MA and PhD (Anthropology) Cornell University 1993 & 1998