Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Introduction: Power, Pain, and the Cultural Work of Authenticity in American Studies and Beyond

What does it mean to deem something authentic—a particular person or group, a cultural object or performance, an embodied experience or sensation? What is measured or evaluated and against what are these measurements taken? What is disciplined or adjudicated by this designation and who has the power or authority to bestow it? What desires are signaled and what fears are managed? What imaginations are affirmed and what connections are denied, what histories asserted and what possibilities foreclosed, in holding up the authentic as a site of value and attachment? If assertions of authenticity also mark anxieties circling around its opposite, what forces threaten to erode or diminish that which the authentic names and holds dear?

In taking up these and related questions, this forum tangles with authenticity as a keyword that travels with impressive range and endurance across the varied terrain of American studies, cutting a path through diverse fields and conversations: in Indigenous studies, music, African American studies, theater and performance studies, Asian American studies, Latinx studies, tourism studies, visual and material culture studies, and film and media studies, to offer a by no means exhaustive list. While the path is wide and well worn, however, the explicit status of the keyword as such—the foundations that undergird it, the genealogies that animate it, the work it enables or forecloses, its ultimate usefulness or lack thereof—is a question sometimes left by the wayside.1 This is in contrast to disciplines like anthropology or philosophy, for instance, in which questions of authenticity have been more central, focused around the identity of cultural objects (and subjects) in the former context, and around notions of selfhood in the latter,2 and to allied fields like Indigenous studies, in which the enduring psychic and material violence enacted through Western constructions of authentic cultural identity have been interrogated with particular force.3 While these are inquiries that inform and contribute to American studies deeply and directly, however, in many accounts, the notion of [End Page 123] the authentic as a meaningful qualifier of experiences, performances, objects, and identities continues to circulate without explication.

In addition to its status across diverse academic fields, authenticity plays an outsize role in modern mass culture, where it serves as a sales pitch for a dizzying array of products and experiences, feeding the very consumer culture felt to threaten or destroy it. As the folklorist Regina Bendix observed in the late 1990s, as a culture we are obsessed with the commoditization of both authenticity and its imitation: the perfect copy that, in its success, highlights the convergence of “the genuine and the spurious” (although the value assigned to the copy as such still relies on this conceptual distinction).4 Contemporary marketing discourse emphasizes with particular zeal the self-conscious manufacture of the authentic and the sincere;5 indeed, the market seems to drive this paradox, propelling through the commoditization of nearly everything the production of kitsch alongside the rising stock of authenticity.6 At the same time, the anxious specter of inauthenticity has gained particular prominence in contemporary political discourse, as both traditional news media and new forms of social media are debated or discounted on the basis of their feared or presumed fakery or phoniness, augmenting the timeliness of this forum’s critical reflection.

In tangling with authenticity and the uses to which it has been put, the forum grows out of and extends discussions initiated at a roundtable at the American Studies Association annual meeting in Honolulu in November 2019. The roundtable convened a group of scholars, students, and practitioners working in diverse areas to grapple with the status and significance of authenticity as a keyword in both American life and American studies scholarship. In the panel’s original CFP, I asked participants to consider what is named, recognized, or constituted through claims to authenticity, how the term can be historicized, and what its genealogy has to tell us about the cultural, political, or ideological work the concept performs. In line with the annual meeting’s theme Building as We Fight, the call invited both an interrogation of authenticity as a concept mobilized toward the consolidation of power and an exploration of new understandings and relationships being forged in the production of culture and identity today. Both the panel’s individual presentations and the subsequent roundtable discussion highlighted the work of authenticity in adjudicating and shoring up racial and ethnic identities in particular. As a group, the presentations emphasized the disciplinary functions of the term across a range of contexts while gesturing to its more unsettled—or unsettling—implications. Ultimately, the conversation coalesced around authenticity’s violent entanglements [End Page 124] and its likely fatal limitations as a keyword unable to break free of the settler colonial and white supremacist genealogies that animate it.

That the roundtable took place in Honolulu made for a fitting context in which to interrogate the work of authenticity in American history and culture. As our discussion made clear, authenticity as a keyword cuts very differently depending on one’s positionality. In Hawai‘i as on the mainland, the imposition by the United States government of standards of authentic cultural identity assigned through policies of blood quantum has functioned as an essential tool of Indigenous dispossession.7 White supremacist civilizational fantasies have constructed a Native other coded as both primitive and authentic—a timeless figure imagined to reside in a space outside Western conceptions of historical development.8 In Hawai‘i as elsewhere, Western colonial constructions of an exotic nonwhite other provide a model to which “authentic” representations must then conform.9 The tourist industry continues to traffic in these fantasies, animating a complicated set of negotiations among Native Hawaiian performers and others who labor in this industry.10 While the ongoing dispossession of Kānaka Maoli in the context of settler colonialism has informed a critical abundance of scholarship, even within Indigenous communities, debates around the authentic status and relative merits of particular cultural practices as a basis for claims to Indigenous identity have been fraught.11 For many Native Hawaiian scholars, then, “the pain of authenticity”12 entails a complicated and often very personal reckoning with the ongoing impacts of settler colonial violence as they form (and deform) a sense of self, regardless of one’s critical orientation to the term.

The essays assembled here revisit and deepen some of the roundtable’s initial discussions, exploring the messy workings of authenticity as a performative site through which power and authority are variously enacted and negotiated. Contributions from all but one of the roundtable’s original participants—Erika Doss, Josephine Lee, Aaron J. Salā, Amy K. Stillman, and Joshua J. T. Uipi—are joined by essays from Sarah Banet-Weiser and Tavia Nyong’o, further extending the conversation’s interdisciplinary purview. That said, the forum represents only a sampling of what is a much broader field of inquiry, and thus is in no way comprehensive. The entries coalesce around the theme of paradox: of an inner truth or essence constituted through the exhaustive display of its construction; of a performative force at once disciplinary and provocatively unstable; of a pain inherent in claiming authenticity as a site of cultural identity, even while recognizing its status as a tool of settler colonial violence and dispossession. [End Page 125]

The imperative to be true to oneself that organizes philosophical approaches to authenticity—and the very notion of the self as the source of truth and meaning—threads through these conversations in interesting ways. While this notion is in many ways critiqued, even in the context of critique, it is often not relinquished altogether. In the context of American studies, the being of oneself is understood as a deeply and inherently political enterprise, one intimately bound up with questions and histories of power and violence. In tracing the workings of power that dictate the designation of authenticity in any given context, some of the forum’s contributors maintain the value of authenticity as a truth residing in the experience of the self, recasting this authenticity in multiple, hybrid, or collective terms that work to unsettle the racist, misogynist, and heteronormative logics conventionally policing its parameters. Other contributors relinquish any attachment to the term, urging us to move beyond the language of authenticity, the disciplinary power it enacts, and the violent history it encodes—a violence suggested by the etymology of the word itself, which traces back to the Greek authenteo: to have full power over, and also, to murder.13

Conventional Sincerity, Genuine Authority, and the Murderously Real

In laying a groundwork for the forum, the Oxford English Dictionary definition of authenticity—that conventional launching point for many a keyword entry—provides one suggestive place to begin. The OED’s first definition reads: “The fact or quality of being true or in accordance with fact” (and even here, in this opening sally, the emphasis on the facticity of the factual seems to wobble more than it stabilizes); the second definition states: “The fact or quality of being authoritative or duly authorized.”14 Across these first two definitions, we recognize the intimate relationship between truth and authority as they adhere in the concept of authenticity, a recognition of how authentic truths must be authorized as such. That this second definition is listed as “now rare” does not lessen its interest, though it may suggest how the authoritative work of authenticity often operates on the sly. Indeed, in contexts ranging from philosophy to art to commodity culture, authenticity is often taken to measure precisely that which is imagined to escape authority, to exceed the dictates of social (or aesthetic) convention, though the violent entanglements of the latter are a particular focus of this forum’s essays.

The OED’s third definition encompasses a similar tension across its four subentries, identifying authenticity with genuineness, sincerity (this latter [End Page 126] term signifying the perfect correspondence between “inner feelings and their outward expression”), and “the quality or fact of accurately reflecting a model or exemplar, or of being traditionally produced or presented.”15 The proximity of the genuine to both sincerity and tradition in this definition is provocative, suggesting an object (or perhaps, a self) that might be imagined as both unaffected and exemplary—being at once exactly what or as it is, in some essential way, and exactly what or as we expect it to be. Like the linking of truth and authority, this merger of the genuine and sincere with the conventional gestures to the disciplinary function of authenticity, a central dynamic explored in myriad ways across the forum. This definition attests as well to the force of convention itself in determining where and how we recognize signs of the authentic.

In the last of the OED’s four definitions, authenticity is identified as “the fact or quality of being real.” Like authenticity, “realness” as a virtue accrues most insistently around experiences imagined as unfiltered and direct: the stuff of bodies (rather than machines) and feelings (rather than reason), both posited as sites of impact operating beyond the constraints of social infrastructures or conventions.16 The values of “being real” and the attendant pursuit of “realness” or “the real thing” have been specifically gendered and raced in American cultural and political life. Historically projected onto spaces and subjects cast as primitive in the context of a white supremacist Western culture, authenticity in this sense has also been aligned with Anglo-American men and normative ideals of manliness in particular—connotations still very much with us today.17 Violence takes pride of place within this discourse of the real—most prominently the violence of combat—conceived as a mode of existence at once more primitive, more authentic, and more manly than modern “civilized” life nominally allows.

Central to this conception of authenticity is the interweave of violence and morality, as the argument for authenticity is one that makes—and has always made—a moral claim. One place I have explored this in my own work is in the late nineteenth-century discourse of the strenuous life, in which the morality of imperialist violence was constructed as and alongside the pursuit of intense, embodied experience, as part of the call to more authentic modes of white masculinity. That Theodore Roosevelt issues his most famous injunction to the virtues of the strenuous in a speech urging the annexation and occupation of Hawai‘i, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines highlights the centrality of imperialism to this conception of authenticity. Actively locating the authentic within this discourse reminds us of the intimate relationship between authenticity [End Page 127] and the imperialist and colonialist practices that animate it in the context of American history and culture; indeed, the discourse of the strenuous life illustrates very well the dynamic of imperialist nostalgia as diagnosed by Re-nato Rosaldo, in which the agents of imperialist and colonialist violence long for the authentic “traditional” virtues they assign to the cultures and peoples they have destroyed.18 Lionel Trilling’s identification of authenticity as both “darker” and “more strenuous” than its kindred term sincerity is also suggestive in this light, highlighting the casting of particular forces as at once primitive and desirable; as he states, “much that culture traditionally condemned and sought to exclude is accorded a considerable moral authority by reason of the authenticity claimed for it, for example, disorder, violence, unreason.”19

Fantasies of the direct, unmediated reflection of the real, the true, and the genuine have been (paradoxically or unsurprisingly) particularly insistent in the context of American mass media, driven perhaps by the constitutive distance of these media from that which they represent. In this context, too, concerns over authenticity have been heavily gendered, circulating most vigorously around male-identified genres with violent conflict at their core (westerns and war films in marked contrast to romantic comedies, for example, for which the yardstick of authenticity seems to make little sense). Though “authentic” representations make claims for the true or factual nature of the stories they tell, the designation of authenticity in these cases has depended far more on their style of delivery and degree of conformity with familiar narrative conventions.20 The stylistics of media authenticity are themselves varied, from the highly produced, technologically driven spectacles of big budget movies and video games to the low-res, shaky-cam aesthetics of cell phone videos. In either case, it is the affective emotional and visceral impact of such representations that serves as the most common measure of their claim on the real, suggesting the enduring relationship between the real and the sensational, and emphasizing again the centrality of embodied experience to understandings of the authentic as such.

In these as in other contexts, authenticity has a constitutive if paradoxical relationship to absence or loss: it both inscribes a loss and seeks to redress it, making an argument about something that is absent by asserting the presence of some portion, or some index, of that absent thing. As noted above, to classify something as authentic is to make both an ideological and a moral claim: to enact and assert a set of values, assumptions, and beliefs about what matters and how.21 These two points are related through the complex temporality of authenticity, for by inscribing—and describing—a particular loss, the claim [End Page 128] of authenticity in the present constructs a particular vision of the past. The loss that engenders authenticity as a cultural concern has most often been read as a symptom of the modern—a sign of the cleaving of an alienated Western subject from a fullness and plenitude of experience imagined to have existed in the precapitalist past, and to linger on in the bodies and practices of nonwhite others, in pastoral subjects and contexts, and in moments of intense embodied sensation. Along these lines, the quest for authenticity has been interpreted as a critique of, or defense against, modern forms of life and labor, albeit one that facilitates compliance with a modern consumer culture.22 Western philosophical conceptions of authenticity, however—from the Enlightenment to the Romantic to the existential—cannot be disentangled from the contexts of racism, colonialism, and imperialism that situate and define them (Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s conceptions of “savage” man being just one case in point). Rather than settle with the notion of modernity as cause, then, we might more usefully name the white supremacist histories out of which the concept of authenticity itself grows, to better specify the losses it inscribes, and more productively interrogate the complex and enduring forms of violence that fantasies of authenticity work so often to obscure.

Of Power, Paradox, and Pain: The Forum

The forum’s opening contributions from Doss and Banet-Weiser highlight the racial and gendered contours of authenticity discourse in contemporary culture. In her account of Confederate and other “disgraced” memorials, Doss offers a timely testament to the enduring relationship between authenticity and the project of white supremacy. Such memorials do not simply materialize the ideological contours of a white supremacist past—whether of the 1860s or the 1960s, when many of these “authentic” Confederate memorials were installed—but strive to affirm specific identity formations in the present and secure them into the future, through arguments that pivot on the authentic value of keeping these structures “in place.” Banet-Weiser’s discussion turns to the gendered “labor of authenticity” on social media platforms such as Instagram. Here the performance of vulnerability serves as a mark of the exhaustive, exhausting effort to conform to the dictates of fabricated realness and the inevitable, authenticating failure of this effort. That this performance features female influencers most intensely speaks to the persistently gendered connotations of realness itself—the specter of falsity and fakeness that circulates around women as interlocutors in media, politics, and the law. That it is [End Page 129] structured through conventions of white femininity underscores the ongoing centrality of race to questions of the authentic.

The gendered and racialized production of authenticity is engaged from another angle by Nyong’o and Lee in their explorations of popular performances of blackness and racialized otherness more broadly. Taking the flamboyant stage persona of Little Richard as a case study, Nyong’o illustrates the intertwined policing of blackness and queerness enabled by a discourse of authenticity, in which Richard is cast as a specter of inauthenticity twice over, embodying the status of the queer performer as inauthentically black, and the black performer as inauthentically queer. Locating Richard’s negotiation of this discourse within a black radical tradition that affirms the multiple, contingent, and performative, Nyong’o suggests a mode of authenticity operating through practices of signifying rather than sincerity.23 Lee’s discussion of the popular cross-racial impersonations of African American stage performers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries likewise mines the tension between authenticity and artifice. While the success of these performances relied on their reiteration of racist stereotypes, contemporary reviews also highlighted them as the result of careful study and craft. The performative paradox of authenticity emerges here with particular clarity, as essential racialized difference is confirmed only by highlighting its artful construction as such, positing authenticity itself as something other than an inner truth of being reflected and confirmed in the racist repertoires of the stage.

In Nyong’o’s and Lee’s accounts, authenticity opens out onto possibilities of resistance and reconfiguration even as it rehearses racism’s ongoing violence. A similar impulse animates Uipi’s discussion of his own negotiation of authentic cultural identity in the context of the Tongan diaspora. In this essay and in the forum’s last entry, by Stillman, the authors draw on their personal relationship to authenticity as a term with profound and often deeply painful resonances. As Uipi highlights, while white Western conceptions of racialized identity anchored in the colonial language of blood produce one inescapable framework for his experiences, Tongan traditions of kinship rooted in relationships to land, family, and community that are actively sustained across time and space provide for a different imagination of what an authentic identity as Tongan implies or entails.

While Uipi emphasizes the effort to cultivate a meaningful relationship to authenticity, Stillman insists on the ultimate futility of this endeavor, urging us to question the attachment to authenticity and the violence it encodes and perpetuates. In her account of Native Hawaiian movements of resistance and [End Page 130] reclamation over the past half century, the pain of authenticity cuts deep, as a force that exacts its harm not simply against but also within Indigenous communities. Emphasizing the Western epistemological frameworks that lend authenticity its shape and authority and render Indigenous ways of knowing unfathomable, Stillman asks us to consider, seriously and with some urgency, what it would mean to look beyond these frames. Identifying authenticity as a powerful element in the broader assemblage of coloniality, for Indigenous scholars and communities in particular, Stillman insists, it is imperative to imagine ways of being, feeling, and understanding that do not take the notion of the authentic as their measure or place its fictions at their core.

Each of these rich and suggestive accounts mines provocative archives and offers pointed insights on the workings of authenticity in American culture. In them, interesting questions are addressed, though many others are raised. It is my hope that the forum as a whole will encourage students and scholars across the fields of American studies to continue a critical interrogation of the function of the authentic in their own areas, considering the specific contours of the loss that authenticity inscribes, and the particular histories and ideologies on which this imagination of loss depends. These are discussions, debates, and interventions to which I very much look forward.

Jonna Eagle

Jonna Eagle is associate professor of film and media in the Department of American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is the author of War Games (2019) and Imperial Affects: Sensational Melodrama and the Attractions of American Cinema (2017), both from Rutgers University Press. She currently serves on AQ’s Board of Managing Editors.


1. This is not to diminish the rich and significant scholarship that has taken authenticity as a focus, including seminal works like Lionel Trilling’s Sincerity and Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972); T. J. Jackson Lears’s No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880–1920 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981); and Miles Orvell’s The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880–1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989); and more recent works such as E. Patrick Johnson, Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of Authenticity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); Ulla Haselstein, Andrew Gross, and Maryann Snyder-Körber, eds., The Pathos of Authenticity: American Passions of the Real (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2010); and Sarah Banet-Weiser, AuthenticTM: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture (New York: New York University Press, 2012).

2. For a few examples of anthropologically oriented accounts wrestling directly with authenticity, see Regina Bendix, In Search of Authenticity: The Formation of Folklore Studies (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997); Charles Lindholm, Culture and Authenticity (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2008); and Thomas Fillitz and A. Jamie Saris, Debating Authenticity: Concepts of Modernity in Anthropological Perspective (New York: Berghahn Books, 2013). For a sample of contemporary philosophical accounts, see, for instance, Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991); Charles Guignon, On Being Authentic (London: Routledge, 2004); and Simon Feldman, Against Authenticity: Why You Shouldn’t Be Yourself (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2015); as well as Marshall Berman’s The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society (New York: Atheneum, 1970).

3. On Western adjudications of cultural authenticity and Indigenous challenges to and negotiations of this violent legacy, see, for instance, Philip J. Deloria, Playing Indian (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999); Bonita Lawrence, “Real” Indians and Others: Mixed-Blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004); Paige Sylvia Raibmon, Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounter from the Late-Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008); Deborah L. Madsen, Native Authenticity: Transnational Perspectives on Native American Literary Studies (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2010), and within this collection, Paul Lyons, “Questions about the ‘Question’ of Authenticity: Notes on Mo‘olelo Hawai’i and the Struggle for Pono”; Jean M. O’Brien, Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010); Joanne Barker, Native Acts: Law, Recognition, and Cultural Authenticity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011); Sarah Maddison, “Indigenous Identity, ‘Authenticity’ and the Structural Violence of Settler Colonialism,” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 20 (2013): 288–303; and J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty: Land, Sex, and the Colonial Politics of State Nationalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2018).

4. Bendix, In Search of Authenticity.

5. For a taste of this proliferating discourse, see Mark Toft, Jay Sunny, and Rich Taylor, Authenticity: Building a Brand in an Insincere Age (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2020); and James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II, Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2007).

6. Fillitz and Saris, Debating Authenticity, 5.

7. On the work of blood quantum in undermining Native Hawaiian land claims and the movement for Hawaiian sovereignty, see Kauanui, Hawaiian Blood.

8. A similar construction haunts figures of black authenticity; see, for instance, Paul Gilroy’s “Black Music and the Politics of Authenticity,” in The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993).

9. Melani McAlister notes a similar dynamic at work in the context of orientalist representations; see Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East since 1945, updated ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

10. On the construction of Native Hawaiian authenticity in the context of the tourist industry, see, for instance, Jane Desmond, Staging Tourism: Bodies on Display from Waikiki to Sea World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Cristina Bacchilega, Legendary Hawai‘i and the Politics of Place: Tradition, Translation, and Tourism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007); Heather Diamond, American Aloha: Cultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2011); Adria L. Imada, Aloha America: Hula Circuits through the U.S. Empire (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012); Brandy Nālani McDougall, “Stealing the Piko: (Re)placing Kānaka Maoli at Disney’s Aulani Resort,” in Huihui: Navigating Art and Literature in the Pacific, ed. Jeffrey Carroll, Brandy Nālani McDougall, and Georganne Nordstrom (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014); and Stephanie Nohelani Teves, Defiant Indigeneity: The Politics of Hawaiian Performance (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018).

11. For a powerful account of the tensions inherent in locating the Hawaiian Kingdom as a privileged site for understandings of Indigenous authenticity, see Kauanui, Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty.

12. I borrow this phrase from Aaron J. Salā, one of the roundtable’s original participants.

13. See Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity, 131; also cited in Bendix, In Search of Authenticity, 14. As Bendix notes, the related “authentes” means both “one who acts with authority” and “made by one’s own hands,” another suggestive link to contemporary connotations of authenticity and inauthenticity both.

14. OED Online, s.v. “authenticity, n.,” accessed June 2020, www-oed-com.eres.library.manoa.hawaii. edu/view/Entry/13325?redirectedFrom=authenticity#eid.

15. The fourth entry under this third definition outlines the term in its specifically philosophical resonance as “a mode of existence arising from self-awareness, critical reflection on one’s goals and values, and responsibility for one’s own actions.”

16. Henry Nash Smith nicely captures the logic of this discourse in his discussion of frontier fictions, in which civilization is pernicious “because it interposes a veil of artificiality between the individual and the natural objects of experience,” substituting a copy for “the realities of things” (Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950], 72).

17. See, for instance, Lears’s influential discussion of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in No Place of Grace; Gail Bederman’s Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880–1917 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996); and my account of the discourse of the real in this period and its echoes into our own, in Imperial Affects: Sensational Melodrama and the Attractions of American Cinema (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2017).

18. Renato Rosaldo, “Imperialist Nostalgia,” Representations 26 (1989): 107–22.

19. Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity, 11.

20. For more on this dynamic in relationship to war representation in particular, see my War Games (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2019).

21. To offer just one example, in the authenticity-obsessed context of Civil War reenactments, only particular bodily signifiers are understood to be foundational to claims of authenticity, such that the gender and race of reenactors are policed with vigor, while categories of age and body type are not; see my War Games, 51.

22. For one account of this accommodation, see Lears, No Place of Grace.

23. As Paul Gilroy suggests in another context, the very impulse to conceive of authentic identity as stable and singular is usefully understood as a lineage of Euro-American modernity; see The Black Atlantic, 30.

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