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Debating Authenticity: Concepts of Modernity in Anthropological Perspective

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Debating Authenticity

Concepts of Modernity in Anthropological Perspective

Edited by Thomas Fillitz and A. Jamie Saris

258 pages, 36 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-496-6 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (December 2012)

ISBN  978-1-78238-912-5 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (March 2015)

eISBN 978-0-85745-497-3 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


"Debating Authenticity is an authentic representation of the state of play in contemporary anthropology."  ·  American Anthropologist

“Debating Authenticity presents the reader with a rich collection of ethnographic case studies, unpacking the complexity of the concept in various social settings across the globe.”  ·  The Australian Journal of Anthropology


The longing for authenticity, on an individual or collective level, connects the search for external expressions to internal orientations. What is largely referred to as production of authenticity is a reformulation of cultural values and norms within the ongoing process of modernity, impacted by globalization and contemporary transnational cultural flows. This collection interrogates the notion of authenticity from an anthropological point of view and considers authenticity in terms of how meaning is produced in and through discourses about authenticity. Incorporating case studies from four continents, the topics reach from art and colonialism to exoticism-primitivism, film, ritual and wilderness. Some contributors emphasise the dichotomy between the academic use of the term and the one deployed in public spaces and political projects. All, however, consider authenticity as something that can only be understood ethnographically, and not as a simple characteristic or category used to distinguish some behaviors, experiences or material things from other less authentic versions.

Thomas Fillitz is Associate Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Vienna. He has been a visiting professor at the Université des Sciences et Technologies Lille-1 (2001, 2003), at the Université Lumière Lyon-2 (2008), and at Université Paris Descartes (2011).

A. Jamie Saris is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology at the National University of Ireland-Maynooth and Co-Chair of the Combat Diseases of Poverty Consortium. He has been working more than fifteen years in medical and psychological anthropology in Ireland, North America and Africa.

Subject: Theory and Methodology


List of Illustrations

Introduction: Authenticity Aujourd’hui
Thomas Fillitz and A. Jamie Saris


Chapter 1. Revisiting “Culture, Genuine and Spurious:” Reflections on Icons and Politics in Ireland
A. Jamie Saris

Chapter 2. Deceptive Tentacles of the Authenticating Mind: on Authenticity and Some Other Notions that are Good for Absolutely Nothing
Rajko Muršič


Chapter 3. Authentic Wilderness: The Production and Experience of Nature in America
Lawrence J. Taylor

Chapter 4. The Moral Economy of Authenticity. And the Invention of Traditions in
Franche-Comté (France)
Jean-Pierre Warnier

Chapter 5. Oh, That’s So Typical!” Discussing Some Spanish “Authentic” Essential Traits
Jorge Grau Rebollo


Chapter 6. Is Form Really Primary or, What Makes Things Authentic? Sociality and Materiality in Afro Brazilian Ritual and Performance
Inger Sjørslev

Chapter 7. Cultural Search for Authenticity: Questioning Primitivism and Exotic Art
Paul Van der Grijp

Chapter 8. Wooden Pillars and Mural Paintings in the Saudi Southwest: Notes on Continuity, Authenticity, and Artistic Change in Regional Traditions
Andre Gingrich

Chapter 9. True to Life: Authenticity and the Photographic Image
Marcus Banks


Chapter 10. Questions of Authenticity and Legitimacy in the Work of Henri Gaden (1867-1939)
Roy Dilley

Chapter 11. Constructing Culture Through Shared Location, Bricolage and Exchange: the Case of Gypsies and Roma
Judith Okely

Chapter 12. Cultural Regimes of Authenticity and Contemporary Art of Africa
Thomas Fillitz

Notes on Contributors

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