- ¡Viva Jerez! Enjeux Esthétiques et Politiques de la Patrimonialisation de la Culture by Hélène Giguère
Flamenco and wine. One wonders what a dance and alcohol have in common. As far as their effects are concerned, the association may be obvious: both possess the power to incite the [End Page 228] human heart to action. But they also share a location that provides the title of Hélène Giguère's recent work of socio-cultural anthropology, ¡Viva Jerez! In this book the author offers a rich and detailed insight into these two aspects of Jerez de la Frontera culture. Giguère is a social anthropologist and ethnologist who has studied Andalusian traditions extensively, attending particularly to the culture of Jerez. Overall, the volume, written in French and complemented by photos, explanatory charts, glossary, and a valuable bibliography, is an excellent ethnographic work. It worth noting, however, that the book is addressed to a rather narrow audience of aficionados sufficiently familiar with the subject to appreciate Giguère's original material and insights.
The book is divided into three parts. First, since local traditions cannot be understood in isolation from their historical context, the author provides an ethnohistory of the area of Jerez de la Frontera. She documents concisely the historical, social, and cultural events that contributed to the identity of the territory. The second and third parts form the core of the book. These central sections constitute essentially a comparative research project focused on the major components of Andalusian heritage. By exploring the key symbols and practices that have become emblematic of the Andalusian region—namely, the bodega and its product, Jerez-Xérès-Sherry wine, and flamenco—Giguère examines the various ways in which local institutions have intensified their interest in immaterial cultural patrimony as expressions of collective identity, diversity, and creativity. The final focus of the study is a reflection on how heritage, when touched by entrepreneurship, commerce, or tourism, risks being transformed into a cultural product and so trivialized, with its originality and integrity undermined. In this context, Giguère discusses the struggle to preserve the integrity of the flamenco and the wine by means of preserving the duende, the trance-like spirit of the dance, and the crianza, Jerez's special wine-aging process. She documents as well the institutional pressures on local producers to commodify, publicize, and market these local specialties, to make them more widely accessible by removing them from the private and local spheres.
The second part of the book begins with a remarkable discussion of the constitutive features of flamenco. Giguère provides samples of cantes flamenco (flamenco songs) and describes the style, circumstances, and location in which performances occur. Flamenco, a category that includes the musical genre as well as the practitioners, is an art of improvisation, and as a consequence, an imperfect art, which, according to Giguère, is a virtue rather than a vice. On this topic she remarks: "A voice that trembles is much more interesting than a round, clear and well-placed voice" (p. 198, my translation). Flamenco is heteroglossic, differing from place to place and from person to person throughout the various towns and villages of Andalusia. The artists foster distinct flamenco forms and strive to promote an appreciation of their local style over others. Giguère writes: "As for flamenco, it occasionally pertains to a specific 'blood' (heritage), or to a family, to a district, to a cultural group, or to the city of Jerez" (p. 165, my translation). This affirmation is reminiscent of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's observations in Destination Culture (University of California Press, 1998) about the centrality of human actors in performance and ways that merging both process and product distinguishes performances from artifacts.
The emphasis on identity and community life permeates each argument in the book, including the third part concerning the bodega, which represents another central feature of Jerez culture. The bodegas...