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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Archival collections of ethnomusicological recordings can be valuable to people in the communities whose practices they document. Repatriating these sounds can raise complex ethical questions—some similar to those entailed in the repatriation of unique objects from museums, others specific to recorded sounds as replicable replicas of evanescent events. These questions can involve histories of collecting, repositories’ social roles, identity, translocality, ethical and legal affordances and constraints, and case-specific constellations of these and other factors. This chapter of the Oxford Handbook of Musical Repatriation focuses on questions central to musical repatriation, questionnaire responses from archives in eighteen countries, and an ethnographic case study of the return of certain recordings of Navajo music. First published in 1998, it considers repatriation as enacting an ethic founded in responsibility to the creators of music documented in many collections for which archives care, and as emblematic of changing relationships among researchers, institutions, and communities.

Keywords: repatriation, communities, field recordings, collections, cultural heritage, archives, cultural institutions, ethics, sound studies, ethnomusicology

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