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Emberá Indigenous Tourism and the Trap of Authenticity: Beyond Inauthenticity and Invention

From: Anthropological Quarterly
Volume 86, Number 2, Spring 2013
pp. 397-425 | 10.1353/anq.2013.0023



Prompted by tourist commentary that describes an Emberá community in Panama as "inauthentic" or "invented," I examine the limitations of these concepts when used to refer to cultural practices of indigenous communities. To escape from a limiting, singular vision of authenticity, I argue, attention should be paid to the multiple and overlapping meanings of the authentic as these are negotiated in particular contexts. In the case of Emberá indigenous tourism, the tourists' search for an authenticity uncorrupted by modernity inspires indigenous articulations of the authentic related to diverse sets of cultural practices not only in the past, but also in the present. Acknowledging this complexity can set us free from the trap of a singularly conceived authenticity.

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