6298 - Rainy Days and Precious Things: Contemplating People, Buildings, and Tangibility in Salvador, Brazil¿s Pelourinho Historical Center

In this paper I take a quite literally 'transversal' approach to cultural heritage by means of an ethnography of rain, its effects, and its ontological status in the Pelourinho Historical Center of the northeastern city of Salvador, Bahia. The essay is most basically about the contemplation of things by citizens and a state institution in a UNESCO World Heritage Center that over the last two decades has undergone a $100 million transformation into what authorities call the “cradle of Brazil.” More specifically, it is about rain as a means of, or a substance for, contemplating such things. By contemplation I mean perceiving or making things apparent in a variety of ways which range from their taxonomic division to their phenomenological apperception. In working with rain to show how the city becomes perceivable even as the Pelourinho's buildings groan and sometimes collapse I treat rain not simply as some common, "natural," substance, but as a species of theory machine for pushing up against the ways that people engage what they take to be the most basic fundaments of their worlds. This is an important move in light of cultural heritage, a universalizing idiom that provides a grammar for comparing and contrasting different "human" abilities and habits as a species of property supervised transnationally by UNESCO.

Keywords: Cultural Heritage, Ruins, Perception, Rain, Nature/Culture

Author: Collins, John (CUNY, Ud States of Am / USA)


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