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Indigenous Culture and Cultural Authenticity

Semester and Year SP 2012
Course Number IDSEM-UG1684
Section 001
Instructor Luke Fleming
Days Tue,Thu
Time 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement SOC, GLOBAL


Even as indigenous groups have found themselves subjugated by centuries of colonialism, they are increasingly finding that they must prove their “indigeneity” to legal, national, or colonial authorities so as to gain territorial, cultural and political rights. Here, national and colonial authorities are concerned to distinguish inauthentic from authentic cultural practice and tradition. But what does it mean for a culture to be “authentic”? What are the criteria by which cultures are evaluated as legitimate or spurious, and who judges? This course interrogates the relationship between discourses of cultural authenticity and performances of indigenous identity as a lens through which to understand the particularly post-colonial (and post-modern) predicaments of indigenous peoples today. The course will look at how the concept of indigeneity as a globalized identity-category has emerged historically out of conditions of settler colonialism. We examine common strains in colonial, anthropological, missionary and tourist encounters with local linguistic and cultural communities in order to better understand how indigenous peoples have been represented and constructed as social “Others”, and how indigenous “culture”—as a set of objectified practices—has been discovered, documented, and often prohibited through these encounters. An aim of this course is to understand the double-bind that indigenous groups face: they must publically display signs of “traditional” indigenous culture in order to gain recognition, but in performing “indigeneity” they are then accused of being fakes. Readings may include: James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture;  Jean & John Comaroff, Ethnicity, Inc. ; Kirk Dombrowski, Against Culture: Development, Politics, and Religion in Indian Alaska;  Jean Jackson & Warren Kay (eds.), Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America ; and Elizabeth Povinelli, The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism .



Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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