Appropriating authenticity: anthropological and archaeological enquiries on a shared theme
Michaela Benson (University of York)
Joshua Pollard (University of Bristol)
Cornelius Holtorf
Arch & Anth LT1
Start time:
7 April, 2009 at 14:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel investigates the role authenticity plays in anthropology and archaeology, questioning how identities are constructed and authenticated by the appropriation of material remains, cultures and histories; and how claims to authenticity are contested within contemporary and past worlds.

Long abstract:

When we consider the links between social anthropology and archaeology, authenticity emerges as a shared theme. Common intellectual and political ground is found, whether this in examining the search for 'authentic cultures' or authentic narratives of the past. Ethnographic research points to how claim-making around objects, human remains, sites, cultures, and histories, is a way that people construct and authenticate their identities. By appropriating authenticity, some groups claim unique histories, territories, and cultural practices, while others are silenced. We regularly encounter struggles over claims to authenticity as new archaeological evidence is brought to light, presenting challenges to long-held and seminal beliefs about history and culture. On one level, this panel addresses the question of why authenticity matters for researchers in these two disciplines, and how it legitimates disciplinary identity. However, we also question the way that authenticity is appropriated, both by researchers and by particular groups of people in the contemporary world; and ask what authenticity does for those claiming it? We invite papers which interrogate the role of authenticity within the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology, which critically examine the controversies and struggles over claims to authenticity, past and present, or which investigate the winners and losers in this continuous quest.