issue

abstracts

 


17 (1/2)


Registers of 1ncontestability
The Quest for Authenticity in Academia and Beyond
Mattijs van de Port

This essay critically examines the tendency in anthropology to deconstruct claims of 'authenticity' wherever and however they are mentioned. The author argues that constructivist approaches to reality tend to overlook the fact that most people manage to transcend the constructedness of their life worlds, i.e. realize an authentically felt grounding of their views and understandings. Discussing examples from Serbia, the Netherlands and Bahia (Brazil), the author highlights that the construction of reality is at all times accompanied by processes of authentication - processes which often seek to ground a vision in such 'incontestable facts' as bodily experience, psycho trauma, loss and death (back)

 


'Defending our Honor'
Authenticity and the Framing of Resistance in the Iraqi Sunni Town of Falluja
Roel Meijer

In April 2004 a revolt broke out against the American occupation in the Iraqi Sunni town of FalIuja. Besides a military confrontation, it was also a war of words how to conceptualise the clash of interests and vaIues of the indigenous population in opposition to those of the American occupation. At the heart of this clash was the issue who represented the authentic values of Iraq. Authenticity was framed in the concepts of honour and dignity, which have a deep cultural resonance. The article deals with the three stages of the radicalisation of resistance in Falluja, each of them characterized by the predominance of a certain concept of honour and dignity. The first was expressed in tribaI culturaIist terms, the second in nationalist-religious terms, while the third was framed in radical Salafi terms in defence of the Islamic Umma. All three claims to authenticity are said to represent the true, authentic values of Iraq. (back)


Purity and Transgression
Sacred Violence and the Quest for Authenticity
Oskar Verkaaik

In recent times, terrorism is often discussed as a religiously inspired course of action. Such explanations often reify and dehistoricize the religious concepts, models and traditions that are subsequently offered as explanatory motives for extreme violent behavior. However, religion is much more than an obstinate reaction against modernity, secularization and globalization. This article discusses how the cultural model of martyrdom offers an experience of authentic individuality as it instigates believers to transgress the social and political through self-sacrificial violence. By way of examples fiom Pakistan and the US army in Iraq, it is argued that self-sacrificial violence can be seen as a rite of passage that brings about the completion of the self. The search for authenticity that is part of present-day martyrdom makes it a thoroughly modern phenomenon. (back)


The Makah Whale Hunt and Leviathan's Death
Reinventing Tradition and Disputing Authenticity in the Age of Modernity
Rob van Ginkel

In 1995, the Makah Indian Tribe (USA) publicly announced that it wished to revitalize its tradition of whale hunting. The Makah had treaty rights to hunt whales dating back to 1855 but gave up whaling in the 1920s. Environmentalists and animal rights activists adamantly opposed the Makah's claim, but the tribe was successful in obtaining pennission to go whaling again. Vehement reactions followed. The discourse on the Makah whale hunting rights soon shifted to discussing the merits and demerits of Makah culture and the genuineness and legitimateness of the tribe's wish to reconnect to its tradition. The present article describes and analyzes the debate, in particular as it relates to the issues of Makah heritage and its contested authenticity. (back)


'I am not a goth!'
The Unspoken Morale of Authenticity within the Dutch Gothic Subculture
Agnes Jasper

Notions of authenticity and identity in Dutch gothic subculture focus on the paradox of being a subcultural insider, i.e. being simultaneously an individuaI and a member of a homogenous group. This paradox aIso triggers the problem of authentic identity. Gothic insiders emphasize that they are not goths, but that they identify with what they describe as gothic, only to explain later that that is not authentic gothic. I will argue that this denial is a subcultural strategy, a way to 'ward off' c1assificatory strategies of dominant, non-subcultural culture. Namely, as soon as criteria for sub-cultural identity are conceptualised, they can he copied by outsiders, and this should preferably be avoided. EmpiricaI material will display how gothic subculturaI identity is practiced within the monitoring and conceptualising processes prompted by outsiders like the media, and how authenticity seems to be a void, nothing but an abstract unspoken, sub-culturaI moraIe. (back)


Parades and Beauty Pageants
Encountering Authentic White Mountain Apache Culture in Unexpected Places
Inga W Schröder

This article explores authenticity in contemporary Native North American culture. not as a discourse presented in the political arena to legitimate claims against the American state, but as grounded in the experience of social relations embedded in local history. The Tribal Fair and Rodeo and the Miss White Mountain Apache pageant on the Fort Apache Reservation io Arizona are described to illustrate the processual production of, what I would like to call, local authenticity. Both culturaI formats are borrowed from Euro-American popular culture, but due to their long history at Fort Apache, their embeddedness in networks of local social relations. and their importance for the expression of distinctly Apache cultural values, they have become occasions where authentic Apache culture of today is displayed. (back)


Afrikania's Dilemma
Reframing African Authenticity in a Christian Public Sphere
Marleen de Witte

This paper addresses the dilemma of a neo-traditional religious movement in Ghana. In its project of reviving and modemising the authentic religion of Ghana in the Christian­dominated public sphere, the Afrikania Mission is caught hetween the shrine priests in the rural areas, whom it tries to mobilise as keepers of 'the real thing', and the dominant, Christian formats and styles of representing religion in the media. Afrikania's struggles for authenticity call for reftection on anthropology's historical legacy in local debates on tradition. These debates are framed by a dualist opposition that does not allow for being modern and authentic at the same time. In order to be modern and civilised, Afrikania has to frame Afrikan Traditional Religion in Christian formats - which is contested by many shrine priests - but in order to he authentic it has to present itself as traditional Other to modern Christianity. (back)


Senses of Authenticity
Chieftaincy and the Poli tics of Heritage in Ghana
Katharina Schramm

This discussion places authenticity in the framework of Ghanaian heritage politics. It examines the interplay between assertions of an authentic (nationaI) culture and its exploitation in the tourist sphere. In Ghana, as in other postcolonial states, there is an ongoing debate among intellectuals and state representatives over cultural adulteration and the supposed loss of identity. In public forums and official statements, it is argued that culturaI preservation is necessary in order to 'show something to the tourists'. Such heritage-tourism is mainly directed towards Africans from the diaspora who bring their own ideas concerning authentic African culture, claiming it as their own. Taking chieftaincy as an example, the author argues that authenticity is highly contested among local, national and Diasporan actors and thus appears as adynamic and ever-shifting category. Moreover, the very notion of culturaI heritage aIready implies asense of commodification, thereby blurring any strict opposition between 'authentic' and 'adulterated' culture. (back)


"Who is a Witch?
Contesting Notions of Authenticity Among Contemporary Dutch Witches
Martin Ramstedt

The commercialization of witchcraft in various Dutch Fantasy festivals, media and shops, boosted by the success of films, such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, has roused concern on the part of those who see witchcraft as an authentic mystery religion based on initiation. Representatives of different initiatory and hereditary witchcraft traditions were invited to voice their protest at two major fairs in 2003 and 2004. As their positions on 'who is a witch?' c1ashed with those of self-professed witches in the audience, they struggled to protect witchcraft as a 'trademark' of authenticated traditions. Marking contesting claims to authorship and ownership of as well as authority over the practice of western witchcraft, the different positions simultaneously attested to the normalization of the witchcraft movement as a whole. A proliferation of metaphorical readings of the concepts of witchcraft spurs a confluence of witchcraft and commercial Fantasy fiction. (back)


Authenticity as an Analytic Concept in Folkloristics
A Case of Collecting Folktales in Friesland
Eric Venbrux and Theo Meder

This article exarnines the notion of authenticity as applied in folktale collector A.A. Jaarsma's endeavour to write down narratives from the oral tradition of ordinary folk in his home region of the Frisian Walden in the north of the Netherlands. Jaarsma was instructed by J.J. Voskuil, head of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Meertens Institute in Amsterdam, to collect authentic folktales. What did 'authenticity' mean according to fieldworker Jaarsma and ethnologist Voskuil, and just how (un)problematic is this notion? (back)


Pierre Bourdieu
Issues of Embodiment and Authenticity
Herman Roodenburg

This paper, using some recent insights from performance studies and other writings on embodiment, takes a second look at Bourdieu's fieldwork in Algerian Kabylia. It is argued that as a consequence of Bourdieu's taking Kabyle society as a strategic research site, he depicted its ritual traditions as something 'authentic', as basically primordial and unmediated. Much of the concepts' lack of historicity may he explained by this search for authenticity, but the insights of schol ars who, building on Bourdieu, have enhanced our understanding of embodiment may weil remedy these shortcomings. (back)


'This Is Not Mexico, This Is The Border'
Discourses on Authentic Mexican Culture in Tijuana
Hanneke Stolk

In this ariccle I use Baudrillard's anaIysis ofDisneyland to understand the meaning of another constructed tourist environment: Avenida Revolución, a street located in the Mexican city of Tijuana, right at the border with the US. Avenida Revolución is commonly seen and described as a place of pure culturaI destruction, where 'reaI' Mexicanidad (Mexican cultural identity) has been lost due to the proximity and lure of American culture and the complete commercialization of Mexican culture. And yet, as Baudrillard's anaIysis shows us, it is in such explicitly inauthentic and artificiaI locations that notions of culturaI authenticity come into being. I wiII discuss how American tourists and Tijuana's residents working on this street interpret their practices and experiences with the help of historical discourses that define both the 'real' Mexican identity and the corrupting influence of foreign culture on the integrity of Mexican culture. The boundaries and contents of 'authentic' Mexican culture are thus defined and fortified. (back)