International Journal of Cultural Property

SECTION 3: The Intangible Property Cordon Outside of Intellectual Property Law

Reconstructing the “Cradle of Brazil”: The Detachability of Morality and the Nature of Cultural Labor in Salvador, Bahia's Pelourinho World Heritage Site

John Collinsa1

Department of Anthropology, Queens College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Email:


This essay examines theories of value and property in relation to conceptions of morality, correct comportment, and their influences on Afro-Bahians subject to late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century cultural heritage initiatives in the Pelourinho neighborhood of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. This urban space is the nation's most expressive site for the performance of Afro-Brazilian identity and the commemoration of tradition. In analyzing the role of morality in Pelourinho-based cultural property-making, I focus on popular critiques of heritage discourse to argue that, in conjuring a particular form of cultural heritage that bears a distinct resemblance to UNESCO's immaterial patrimony programs, the Bahian state has piggybacked on social scientific evaluations of local people's moral comportments in order to put together an archive of everyday life that exists as a standing reserve for histories of Brazil and the marketing of cultural heritage. This data produced in an effort to regulate the historical center has revolved around the state's evaluation of the moral probity and everyday habits of the Pelourinho's overwhelmingly Afro-Brazilian populace. The result is a conceptualization of cultural labor that emanates not from the capacities and struggles of producers, but from a decentered or distributed view of production, which I tie to the existence of this archive. Consumers, or visitors to the historical center, as well as historical archives thus play a critical role in this form of constructing property and understanding the sources and fungibility of labor in a global economy for multicultural difference that depends on an emphasis on futurity and market reflexivity.