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dany masado


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what qualifies as an authentic culture? are some cultures more authentic than others?

I ask this from the perspective of a young african woman living in the era of globalization. This conversation started when a friend of mine told me that the choreography that I had prepared for our annual african cultural show for Michigan State University was not "authentic African" dance. This eventually translated other aspects of what it means to have an authentic culture, from the way we are raised, to the languages we speak, to how we must avoid the influence of the western world. I believe that there is no such thing as an authentic culture, and that it is much more productive to open ourselves to others and absorb the good things that exist within others. I am open to anyone who can explain to me where I've gone wrong in my understanding of authenticity and I look forward to your answers


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    Jul 1 2011: No such thing as authentic, Dany Masado?
    Maybe there is a sliding scale, but I think the idea has some merit. Otherwise, you might allow an Al Jolson minstrel show to represent African culture. Suppose two different people were going to do your choreography project. One of them saw a five minute YouTube of an African dance of unknown origin, and another lived in Africa for 20 years and heard many stories from their grandparents about dances and their meanings and that person simply shared input from their own experiences. It seems that the latter would be more "authentic" than the former, although this would be very hard to measure. Just as verisimilitude is a valuable quality to have in a novel, I think authenticity of cultural representation has value. It's just really hard to define in any simple way. It's also hard to measure.
    Does that help?
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      Jul 2 2011: thank you very much for you input. first I'd like to point out that what I understand as being an "authentic culture", is one that has customs that are unique to itself, customs that cannot be duplicated in any other culture. Can we truly say that in our day and age, there anything in any culture that has not been influenced by any other? The reason why this is such an important question for me it is that I believe that asking African people to go back to their authentic culture is to polarize the world even more because in attempting to gather the "sameness" of the African people, we creating an "otherness" for the rest of the world. Does this not seem counter-intuitive to a progressive world of "togetherness"? please pardon the cheesiness of that sentence.
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        Jul 2 2011: Dany, there is sameness in culture with its unique expression that other culture can see as otherness and there is also togetherness that is expressed in this unique culture as we see them as an ulitmate expression of our love, hope and trust.
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        Jul 4 2011: Dany Masado (ouch you make me think)
        Eclectic rather than exclusionary is what I am hearing. I can respect that. I can also respect the idea that our commonality is more important than our distinctions or differences, sort of a focussing on the middle of the Venn diagram instead of the edges. But when we share or make music together, for example, it is sometimes important to understand our different points of view, different timbre of our instruments, stepping into each other's shoes, in order to walk together, play together, share anything really. I respect our differences in gender, age, culture, and whatever else, yet mostly I want to validate you and myself together in our common humanity.
        Maybe more important than the "authenticity" of a culture is the sharing of its celebration.
      • Jul 4 2011: Any contact with people from a diferent culture impacts the native culture. It's impossible get a 100% authentic and unique culture.
        • Josh S

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          Jul 4 2011: I agree with you on this view and with the view of others that there are multiple levels to the authenticity of a culture. However, I think there are similarities in all levels of culture in the modern era.

          I think there are basic similarities in culture that most, if not all of us, have shared for large parts of our histories. Disposal of our deceased, creating a union between people in love, social stratifications, and the list goes on.

          The aspects of culture that remained different (and the list is huge) between societies have been mixing together since the age of exploration and it's only been accelerating since. Unique cultures were either peacefully integrating with each other and the less socially desireable aspects were dropped or, because of warfare, unique cultures were killed off.

          Perhaps the only places where cultures remain intact and undisturbed are areas such as the Amazon rainforest where some tribes remain deep within and isolated from the outside. Otherwise, true "authentic" culture in the modern world are more or less just best guesses at what the cultures used to be for the purpose of entertainment and/or tourism.

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