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Volume 86, #2 • Spring 2013



Laying Claim to Authenticity: Anthropological Dilemmas



Laying Claim to Authenticity: Five Anthropological Dilemmas

Dimitrios Theodossopoulos, University of Kent

ABSTRACT — The introduction to this special collection examines five dilemmas about the use of the concept of authenticity in anthropological analysis. These relate to 1) the expectation of a singular authenticity “deep” in oneself or beyond the surface of social reality, 2) the contradictions emerging from the opposition of authenticity with inauthenticity, 3) the irony of the notion of invention of tradition (which deconstructs, but also offends), 4) the criteria involved in the authentication of the age of objects (with a consideration of their materiality), and 5) authenticity’s simultaneity, its contemporaneous multiple conceptualizations in context. I argue for a perspective on the study of authenticity that acknowledges the simultaneous co-existence of more than one parallel manifestation of authenticity in any given negotiation of the authentic. [Keywords: Authenticity, authenticating, invention of tradition, pastness, simultaneity]


The Rise of Expressive Authenticity

Charles Lindholm, Boston University


Emberá Indigenous Tourism and the Trap of Authenticity: Beyond Inauthenticity and Invention

Dimitrios Theodossopoulos, University of Kent

ABSTRACT — Prompted by tourist commentary that describes an Emberá community in Panama as “inauthentic” or “invented,” I examine the limitations of these concepts when used to refer to cultural practices of indigenous communities. To escape from a limiting, singular vision of authenticity, I argue, attention should be paid to the multiple and overlapping meanings of the authentic as these are negotiated in particular contexts. In the case of Emberá indigenous tourism, the tourists’ search for an authenticity uncorrupted by modernity inspires indigenous articulations of the authentic related to diverse sets of cultural practices not only in the past, but also in the present. Acknowledging this complexity can set us free from the trap of a singularly conceived authenticity. [Keywords: Authenticity, invention of tradition, culture revitalization, indigenous tourism, Emberá]


On Pastness: A Reconsideration of Materiality in Archaeological Object Authenticity

Cornelius Holtorf, Linnaeus University

ABSTRACT — This article argues for a modified constructivist approach to archaeological object authenticity which takes the object’s materiality seriously. This is accomplished by defining authenticity not in relation to the age of an object but to its age-value, i.e., the quality or condition of being (of the) past—its pastness. Pastness is the result of a particular perception or experience. It derives from, among others, material clues indicating wear and tear, decay, and disintegration. These material clues, and thus the presence of pastness, can be created entirely in the present. [Keywords: Authenticity, materiality, constructivism, pastness, patina, ruins, retrochic]


“These Rude Implements”: Competing Claims for Authenticity in the Eolithic Controversy

Roy Ellen, University of Kent

ABSTRACT — The acceptance of eoliths as man-made is surprising, given that Victorian science had first dismissed the idea with respect to hand axes. I argue that scientific innovation involves an imaginative impulse that leads easily to over-optimistic interpretation, and that the eoliths were “invented” because they satisfied a requirement of a particular way of thinking. Once arguments in their favor had been accepted, the default “mindset” became one of disproving claims for human fabrication. The debate was conducted at a time when the rules of Pleistocene geology and archaeological interpretation were being established, and it determined the limit of what was scientifically credible. [Keywords: Eolith, authenticity, cultural cognition, history of archaeology]


Post-Authenticity: Dilemmas of Identity in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Marcus Banks, University of Oxford

ABSTRACT — This article draws upon some recent repatriation claims for Tasmanian human remains in British and European museums to examine debates concerning the authenticity of identity in the 21st century, and to reflect on the construction and representation of Indian identities in the colonial period. I discuss how authenticity can be seen as a process, used instrumentally, rather than a static quality, focusing on how authenticity is asserted, negotiated, performed, or rejected through social and political interaction. The negotiations of the Tasmanian Aboriginal groups for recognition of their status as authentic Aborigines provides a kind of prism or lens through which we can take a fresh view of the competing claims to authorship of India’s filmic heritage. [Keywords: Authenticity, repatriation, film, human remains, colonialism, identity, archives, India, Tasmania]


Living the “Real” Dream in la France profonde? Lifestyle Migration, Social Distinction, and the Authenticities of Everyday Life

Michaela Benson, University of York

ABSTRACT — For the British residents of rural France, the desire for authentic (rural) living underscored the decision to migrate, while through residence they gain more nuanced understandings of authenticity. This article explores the purpose and meaning that these authenticities have for such lifestyle migrants. As the ethnography in this article demonstrates, claims to the authentic are equally claims to distinctiveness, and should thus be read within the context of the continual processes of social distinction in which these migrants engage. [Keywords: Authenticities, social distinction, rurality, lifestyle migration, France]


Laying Claim to Authenticity: Anthropological Dilemmas

Introduced by Dimitrios Theodossopoulos

Volume 86, #2

Spring 2013