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Cultural Bureaucracy and the Manufacture of Ifugao Oral Literature



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Blench, Roger 


The Philippines is extremely rich in oral literature genres, in particular elaborate epic recitations. When UNESCO was seeking ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ in Southeast Asia, it chose the hudhud epics of the Ifugao people of Northern Luzon based on a recording by a professional performance group rather than by actual hudhud performers. Consequently, there are now substantial offices manned by civil servants intent on ensuring that the only versions of hudhud that are disseminated correspond to the requirements of the urban elites.

The choice of hudhud is unfortunate in many ways, since non-hudhud genres—and there is a wide variety of oral literature among the Ifugao and all neighbouring communities—have been almost entirely ignored. Also virtually unreported is the use of musical instruments to ‘talk’, a once widespread practice that is now almost extinct. This paper will discuss fieldwork to record, transcribe, translate and archive these remarkable genres.


World Oral Literature Project Workshop 2010


oral literature, Ifagao, Philippines, hudhud

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