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In this essay, Luker examines the 2009 UNESCO declaration that recognized tango as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” in order to develop a critical perspective on the cultural politics of musical heritage making within complexly interlocking networks of musical circulation, cultural policy, and global commerce in contemporary Buenos Aires. The UNESCO declaration, Luker argues, is emblematic of the new ways musical culture is drawn upon and used in what Luker calls, following Yúdice, the age of expediency, where previous ambivalences if not outright antagonisms between cultural producers, private enterprise, the state, and so-called third sector or civil society organizations have come to operate as synergistic opportunities for development of all sorts. While these newly configured relationships are usually not the straightforward “win-win” that many advocates claim, they certainly confound conventional notions of left/right politics—cultural and otherwise—and in that sense present a serious challenge to the critical scholarship of music.

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