Working Session: Authenticity and Authoring in Pacific cultures
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, authenticity 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 at- tempts 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 indigenous cultures alike. Troubled by concerns about voice, its origins, who is speaking and to whom, 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 authenticity 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 2017 working session in Hawaii, we intend holding another working session in New Orleans. We are still open to new participants. Topics include the historical rootedness of the concept of authenticity in Western thought and the meaning and usefulness of some variants of authenticity within Pacific societies, as well as themes identified in the 2017 session such as creative fiction, global connections, and authentic identities. Paper titles and participants include: Doug Dalton, "Deconstructing (In)Authenticity"; Joyce Hammond, "Whose Authenticity? Tenues Végétales in Beauty Competitions in Tahiti"; Jeannette Mageo, "Mimicry and Authenticity in early 20th century American Samoa"; Sei O'Brien, "Noah's Ark: Tuvaluan Elders' Response to the Auckland Museum"; John Wagner and Christine Schreyer, "Writing Kala: Language Purity and Cultural Identity in Rural Papua New Guinea"; Deborah Waite, "'Barava': What Constitutes Authenticity?"; Alphonse Aime, “Unwrapping the Social and Cultural Significance of Slit-drums of the Pacific--especially Papua New Guinea”; Sergio Jarillo de la Torre, “Made in PNG: Au- thentic Christian Iconography from the Pacific”; Sarina Pearson, “Ethnographic Orientalism and Digital Story-telling in the Pacific.”
The deadline for abstracts is October 16; the deadline for circulating papers is January 16. For more information or to participate in the 2018 working session please contact the organizers.
Jeannette Mageo, Washington State University, <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Joyce Hammond, Washington State University, <Joyce.Hammond@wwu.edu>