WherryJCC2006 - 5 ARTICLE The Social Sources of...

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Unformatted text preview: 5 ARTICLE The Social Sources of Authenticity in Global Handicraft Markets Evidence from Northern Thailand FREDERICK F. WHERRY University of Pennsylvania Abstract. What happens to authenticity in the age of global markets? Rather than enforce such sharp dichotomies as authentic/inauthentic (object) or exploited/ not-exploited (artisan), this article recognizes that the notion of authenticity evolves and gains strength through a process of differentiation that largely relies on the social situations that the artisans, the sellers and the buyers inhabit. This article documents how the Thai artisans of the Hang Dong district have diversified their notions of authenticity in producing and marketing their ethnic and tourist arts. Handicraft artisans and entrepreneurs sometimes create multiple meanings of authenticity to accommodate, modify, and at times resist, the effects of globalization on local culture and local economic life. These different understandings of authenticity initially direct the course of production and exchange; but new, sometimes unexpected, understandings emerge in the course of action. The four social sources of authenticity are reactive identity, reluctant engagement, complicit appropriation, and transcendental values. Each source has a different effect on how much local control artisans exert in production and exchange and how long traditional motifs and production processes endure in the commercial market for crafts. Key words authenticity cultural commodities economic sociology ethnic art handicrafts markets tourism tourist art Thailand Journal of Consumer Culture Copyright 2006 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) Vol 6(1): 532 1469-5405 [DOI: 10.1177/1469540506060867] www.sagepublications.com For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial.We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art. Paul Valry (quoted in Benjamin, 1968: 219) INTRODUCTION To understand authenticity in the age of global markets, this article docu- ments how the Thai artisans of the Hang Dong district in Thailand have diversified their understandings and expressions of authenticity in produc- ing and marketing their ethnic and tourist arts (also referred to as handi- crafts). The phrase ethnic and tourist arts refers to objects with aesthetic value produced for internal consumption or for external sale. When produced for internal consumption, such objects contribute to maintain- ing the ethnic boundaries of a group. Examples include sacred amulets or prayer apparatuses that mark their consumers as followers of a particular religion. Objects produced for external consumption are sometimes referred to as tourist or airport arts because they are bought by travelers visiting exotic locations or by individuals in search of objects that repre-...
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This note was uploaded on 05/15/2010 for the course SEA 215 taught by Professor Lorenryter during the Winter '10 term at University of Michigan.

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WherryJCC2006 - 5 ARTICLE The Social Sources of...

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