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Economies of Sincerity, Economies of Authenticity, Economies of Appearances 
Matthew Carey (University of Copenhagen)
Ismaël Moya (CNRS X)
Ida Hartmann (University of Copenhagen)
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Lanyon Building (LAN), 01/002 CR & CC
Wednesday 27 July, -
Time zone: Europe/London

Short Abstract:

Ideals of sincerity and authenticity preach an alignment between one's inner self and one's outward actions or speech. This panel explores social contexts that operate on different principles, either by focusing exclusively on surface appearances or by promoting different forms of alignment.

Long Abstract:

In his magnum opus, published in 1972, Lionel Trilling diagnosed a fundamental transformation in Western societies, away from a concern with sincerity (then seen as a slightly passé concept) and towards a focus on radical authenticity. Fast-forward thirty years and authenticity has, in turn, come in for its share of critique, while sincerity finds renewed vigour both in the discipline of anthropology (Keane 1997; Haeri 2017) and in wider societal efforts to challenge fake news and "bullshit" (Frankfurter 2005), and promote transparency. What both sincerity and authenticity share, however, is a fundamental commitment to the idea that, to borrow the words of Shakespeare's Iago, one's "outward action [should] demonstrate the native act and figure of the heart in complement extern". In a nutshell, our speech and actions should be a faithful representation of our inner selves.

This moral dictum contrasts sharply with ideology and practice in many other cultural or geographic contexts, in which what matters socially is not what one is, thinks or even actually does, but what one appears (to others) to do or say. Social labour (language, action etc.) is about the management of surface appearances, in the eyes of others, that do not necessarily (and in certain cases, should not) conform to some putative inner reality - these appearances may be about sexuality, propriety, wealth, status, piety, etc. We invite papers that explore such alternative economies ethnographically and reflect on their implications for understandings of sincerity, authenticity, personhood and ethics.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -