Working Session: Authenticity and Authoring in Pacific cultures
Organizers: Jeannette Mageo and Joyce Hammond
Friday, February 10, 2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Jasmine 1
While anthropologists tend to suspect the category of authenticity, the “A word” is frequently on the lips of those commonly found in the Pacific today—islanders, tourists, and collectors—and it is a key value in the practices of all three groups. As an emic category, au- thenticity deserves consideration. In part, the category of authenticity is suspect because of questions of authoring raised by anthropologists and museum curators for the past several decades. Does a certain practice or product, they ask, trace back to pre-contact times or is it traceable to more contemporary times and to foreign places—questions raised in the invention of tradition literature. Attempts at authentic renderings in Pacific cultures by foreigners and locals have persisted ever since first contact and are worthy of study for what these attempts can show about interactive understandings of cultures. In all instances the aims of these attempts were mixed and the renderings themselves multi-vocal.
This working session focuses on images and texts from varied contexts: from Pacific islands to Western museums and galleries and from early colonial times to the present. Often, if not always, such renderings have been and continue to be multi-authored by foreigners and indigenes in more or less manifest or latent ways and they were and are generative for foreigners and in- digenous cultures alike. Troubled by concerns about voice, its origins, who is speaking, with what right and with what legitimacy, these renderings and their reception nonetheless represent creative collisions of cultures; their effects were and are to different degrees eroding and procreant. Themes of tribute, gift, appropriation, and trade lace through such productions and their after effects. The session explores all these topics as well as distinctions among different forms of authen- ticity in actors’ perceptions and how definitions of authenticity may vary over time. Examples may include art forms, photographs, ceremonies and contests, theater and also classic ethnographic accounts where the aim is an authentic rendition of a Pacific culture. After a successful informal session last year in San Diego, we intend going on to a working session in Hawaii. We are still open to new participants. Paper titles and partici- pants include: “‘Barava’: What Constitutes Authenticity?” by Deborah Waite, “Unwrapping the social and cultural significance of slit-drums of the Pacific--especially Papua New Guinea” by Alphonse Aime, “Mimicry and Authenticity in early 20th century American Samoa” by Jeannette Mageo, “Writing Kala: Language Purity and Cultural Identity in Rural Papua New Guinea” by John Wagner and Christine Schreyer, “Made in PNG: Authentic Christian Iconography from the Pacific” by Sergio Jarillo de la Torre, “Tenues Végétales in Beauty Competitions in Tahiti” by Joyce D. Hammond, “Noah's Ark: Tuvaluan Elders' Response to the Auckland Museum” by Sei O'Brien, “Ethnographic Orientalism and Digital Storytelling in the Pacific,” by Sarina Pearson, and “Deconstructing Authenticity” by Doug Dalton.
We are still open to new participants. For more information or to participate in the 2017 working session please contact the organizers.
Jeannette Mageo <email@example.com>
Joyce Hammond <Joyce.Hammond@wwu.edu>