Inauthentic: The Anxiety over Culture and Identity

Inauthentic: The Anxiety over Culture and Identity

Inauthentic: The Anxiety over Culture and Identity

Inauthentic: The Anxiety over Culture and Identity


Modern and contemporary cultures are increasingly marked by an anxiety over a perceived loss of authentic cultural identity. In this book, Vincent J. Cheng examines why we still cling to notions of authenticity in an increasingly globalized world that has exploded notions of authentic essence and absolute differences. Who is "authentic" and who is "other" in a given culture? Who can speak for the "other?" What do we mean by authenticity? These are critical questions that today's world--brought closer together and yet pulled farther apart by globalism and neocolonialism--has been unable to answer. Inauthentic compellingly probes these issues through revealing case studies on the pursuit of authenticity and identity. Each chapter explores the ways in which we construct "authenticity" in order to replace seemingly vacated identities, including: the place of minorities in academia; mixed-race dynamics; the popularity of Irish culture in America; the Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland; Jewish American identity; the status of Jewish America in relation to Israel and Palestine; the cultural problems of international adoptions; and the rapidly changing nature of the Asian American population in the United States. Inauthentic combines the scholarly and the personal, informed argument and human interest. It will undoubtedly appeal to academic scholars, as well as to a broader reading audience.


Identity, always identity, over and above knowing and thinking about others.

—Edward Said, “Empire of Sand”

These days everyone was insisting on their identity, coming out as a man, woman, gay, black, Jew—brandishing whichever features they could claim, as if without a tag they wouldn't be human.

—Hanif Kureishi, The Black Album

The world has been witnessing a surprising resurgence in European nations of a nativist, extremist nationalism, often directed at foreigners, immigrants, and Jews—from the rise to prominence of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France's presidential elections, to the continued influence of right-wing leader Joerg Haider and his anti-immigrant Freedom Party in Austria, to the growing power, in two of Europe's traditionally most tolerant nations, of right-wing leaders: Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands and, in Denmark, Mogens Glistrup, founder of the extremist Progress Party, who wants to expel all Muslims. Says Simon Serfaty of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., about this European phenomenon: “There are multiple forces that challenge these nations and their citizens: too many immigrants, the European Union, the intrusion of American culture. People see it as a kind of invisible invasion.” As a result, he notes in an interview with the Associated Press, “there's a deep, widespread and genuine concern over issues of personal and national identity” (Salt Lake Tribune 4/24/02: A16).

A similarly, and related, deep and widespread concern over issues of identity—in the midst of global culture and hybridity—is manifesting itself in the United States. As Chinese American writer Gish Jen notes: “We wonder who we are—what does it mean to be Irish-American, Cuban-American . . .

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