Folklife Friday is a weekly digest of arts and culture articles, podcasts, and videos from across the web. Read on for a selection of the week’s best cultural heritage pieces, and don’t forget to check back next Friday for a new set of weekly picks.
Myanmar Is Restoring Temples to Rebuild Its Heritage
In Bagan, Myanmar, local officials are looking to submit a UNESCO World Heritage bid in an attempt to preserve the city’s monument complex—one long considered the city’s “crown jewel.” Though the designation would improve conservation standards, it also raises new questions about zoning changes and the sustainability of traditional practices. “We need to rebuild our pagoda so that the next generation will know what it looks like,” said U Kyaing, the caretaker of the city’s Dhammayazika monument. “If we don’t, we would lose our heritage.”
Orkesta Mendoza: A Border Story
For Tucson musician Sergio Mendoza, finding his own voice meant striking a delicate balance between mambo, cumbia, and pop music, arriving at a sound that calls to mind the Latin big band music of his youth. In his band’s latest album, ¡Vamos A Guarachar!, the group invites listeners to “forget the realities of politics and racism when they come to his shows—and to just dance for a while instead.” Complement this piece with the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings album Latin Jazz: La Combinación Perfecta.
Cooking with Samin
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, a new 480-page cookbook by Iranian American Samin Nosrat is her study in self-reflection and experimentation. The goal of the book, she explains, “is to render itself irrelevant… the hope is to get people off-script, to hone their culinary instincts such that they might ultimately vibe their way through a dish rather than scurry over to the recipe every two minutes.” In this piece, Nosrat reflects on the book, her improv classes, and the role food plays in helping her to share her long-cherished traditions.
Julio Cortázar’s Literature Class
For Argentine novelist Julio Cortázar, literature is at once welcoming and subversive. “[K]eep in mind the possibility that [language] is deceiving us, that is, that we are convinced that we are thinking for ourselves when in reality language is thinking for us,” he writes. In this review of the posthumous collection Literature Class, Shea Hennum considers the role of self-discovery and authenticity in Cortázar’s work. “What matters is not to be a writer from Latin America but to be, above all, a Latin American writer.”
The Future Is Expensive Chinese Food
In his book The Ethnic Restaurateur, Krishnendu Ray examines the price fluctuation of international cuisine in the United States over the past thirty years. What Ray found is that dishes from nations with more capital and military power command higher prices. Using the example of Italian food, Ray illustrates how the cuisine’s popularity mirrored the American response to Italian immigrants in the nineteenth century. “It is who the American mainstream considers foreign—and when—that can go a long way in explaining why the prestige of a cuisine surges or plunges over time.”
Special thanks to editor Elisa Hough and to Michael Atwood Mason and Amalia Cordova for their contributions to this week’s digest.