Debora Halbert

Debora Halbert,

“Exporting Authenticity:  The Construction of National Cultural Identity”

In this paper I investigate the narrative construction of national identity made through arguments about cultural preservation and cultural property.  The narrative is much more complex than simply demonstrating that American cultural hegemony with the help of intellectual property laws has created a global homogenized culture.  Instead, the corporatized global culture produced under the auspices of the culture industry must be understood within a nation-state project aimed at articulating cultural authenticity in the post-colonial world.

Even as states seek to shore up their borders and establish an authentic sense of identity, cultural diasporas scatter people across the globe.  Furthermore, in the age of modern travel, global nomads ignore the boundaries of the nation-state to fuse cultural traditions as they seek moments of personal authenticity and ways of escaping the globalized dominance of corporate culture.  These counter-trends not only challenge the nationalization of authentic culture but also highlight how diasporatic movements facilitate cultural flows and, I argue, are key to cultural development.

To examine the issues raised by nationalized culture, cultural fluidity, intellectual property, and authenticity I will first sketch out the commodification of culture embraced by American culture industries and their impact within a globalized setting.  Second, examine the complexities of the postcolonial landscape through the concepts of cultural authenticity, traditional culture, and the role of the nation-state.  Third, investigate the impact of diasporatic movements on cultural communication and an effort to find or experience authenticity, a concept that itself is highly problematic from a theoretical point of view.

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