Working Session: Authenticity and Authoring in Pacific cultures
Organizers: Jeanette Mageo and Joyce D. Hammond
Jeannette Mageo and Joyce Hammond convened the session Authenticity and Authoring in Pacific Cultures on Friday morning, February 2 for a full day of lively and stimulating presentations and discussion. A total of ten papers were presented and discussed. Several conference attendees joined us in the morning. The session began with Jeannette Mageo presenting an introductory paper entitled "On the Interrelations between Authoring and Appropriation." Nine other papers followed that included two by Pacific scholars Sei O'Brien and Alphonse Aime Yambisang. Presenters included Doug Dalton whose paper "Authenticity and the Sentiment of Being:‚Ä®The Rawa Song of the Flying Fox as Authentic Tradition" (read in absensia by Jordan Prokosch) examined the origins and development of the concept(s) of authenticity as necessary background for his work on the Rawa song of the flying fox as central to the cultural core. In "Whose Authenticity? Tenues V√©g√©tales in Beauty Competitions in Tahiti," Joyce Hammond discussed reasons islanders are likely to consider the garments created from natural materials used in a segment of Tahitian beauty contests as authentic rather than acquiescence to outsiders' expectations. From Sei O'Brien's paper, "Noah's Ark: Tuvaluan Elders' Response to the Auckland Museum," we learned that Tuvaluan elders are overwhelmingly grateful for the museum's Tuvaluan collections, especially in their desire for younger members of their diasporic community to learn about their ancestral culture. Deborah Waite's paper "Serembule Past and Present: What is Authentic Serembule?" (read in absensia by Joyce Hammond) focused on the multi-dimensional aspects of authenticity tied to changes over time in regards to shell valuables from the Western Province of the Solomon Islands. Some present conceptions of authenticity derive from a reconceptualization of the shells as art created by island artists and acquired by individual collectors, museums and galleries. Bruce Knauft presented "Authorship, Authenticity, Authentification: Critical reflections across four decades of work with Gebusi," in which he examined the ways in which he and the discipline of anthropology have changed over time in regard to the questions of historical construction, authenticity, and author function. In "Mimicry, Authenticity, and Identity in early 20th century American Samoa," Jeannette Mageo drew upon extensive archival research to examine the evidence for American and Samoan fantasies about identity as revealed in acts of mimicry in American Samoan photographs. Toon van Meijl's paper, "Authenticity in Analogy between Past and Present: Towards an Anthropology of Cultural Change," took up the question of whether the question of authenticity emerges in contexts of cultural innovation when people question whether innovation implies discontinuity with the past, drawing upon the Maori Renaissance as a case study. Sarina Pearson presented "`Ethnographic Orientalism' and Digital Storytelling in the Pacific." Her paper queried the politics of a disagreement of what constitutes authentic representation of a group of Polynesians using digital photographs and their voices to tell stories of their lives. Alphonse Aime Yambisang's paper, "Unwrapping the Social and Cultural Significance of Slit-drums of the Pacific‚Äîespecially Papua New Guinea," introduced us to slit drums as a living, generative, and authentic tradition among the Kayan people of Bogia District in Madang Province Papua New Guinea. In this our third session, we continued to examine the historical rootedness of the concept of authenticity in Western thought, as well as the meaning and usefulness of some variants of authenticity within Pacific societies. The interrelationships of authoring and authenticity deepened our discussions as well. Our group agreed that with the diverse ethnographic subject matter and approaches to the topics of authenticity and authoring, a useful and ethnographically rich volume could be produced. Jeannette Mageo and Bruce Knauft will take up editorial tasks to shepherd the project along.
Jeannette Mageo, Washington State University, <email@example.com>
Joyce Hammond, Washington State University, <Joyce.Hammond@wwu.edu>