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What Is Authenticity?

UNI prof discusses what it means to be authentic in his new book, Culture and Authenticity

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Anthropologist Charles Lindholm, a University Professor, explores the concept of true and valid experiences in his recent book Culture and Authenticity (Blackwell Publishing). Lindholm says he tries to look at what the term “authenticity” means in a variety of contexts, “from the individual to the collective, from art to adventure, from advertising to essence.”

“How does the definition of authenticity change between genres?” he asks. “Is ‘authentic’ classical music understood in the same way as ‘authentic’ country music? What is authenticity in terms of nationality, ethnicity, race? What is personal authenticity?” Lindholm says that he found that a range of experiences were given value because they were thought to be authentic, but no one seemed to think critically or culturally about them.

Although many social science researchers have narrow agendas geared toward a specific audience, Lindholm set out to make “sweeping generalizations, despite the risk of mistakes,” he says. “I hope readers will forgive my inevitable errors and find something about themselves and the modern world in the picture that I have sketched so rapidly.”

Rebecca McNamara can be reached at ramc@bu.edu.

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