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January 25, 2012

UMBC Humanities Forum Discussion Panel: Approaching Authenticity

APRIL 3RD, 2012 - 4 p.m. - Library Gallery

Approaching Authenticity: locating living cultural memories, identities, and traditions in the 21st century

Approaching Authenticity brings together scholars from the fields of American Studies, Archaeology, Ethnomusicology, Folklore, Museum and Heritage Studies to discuss what ‘authenticity’ means – and how it can be defined – with respect to our living cultural memories, identities and traditions of today. Although scholars have long considered the notion of ‘authenticity’, or ‘the authentic’, as a highly arbitrary – as well as elitist – tool for cultural valorization, it is still being used by governmental agencies, preservationists and other cultural organizations working in the broader heritage sector through a whole host of related terms. Whether a cultural expression is recognized as a ‘masterpiece’, ‘treasure’ and/or ‘representative’ of others, authenticity is being assessed. Significantly, it can also be argued that it is a concept that knows no socio-economic boundaries: it holds great currency within communities for a whole variety of cultural expressions – from music to food.

Key considerations that will guide this discussion are as follows:

•What makes one cultural expression, memory or tradition – or versions thereof – more authentic than another?
•Who decides what is authentic and what is not?
•What is authentic from the perspectives of community members who hold the memories and embody the cultural expressions in question?
•Why is authenticity sought after?
•In this increasingly globalized world, where ideas are shared, taken and/or sold instantaneously and where the boundaries between communities, groups and individuals are more fluid than ever before, does the ‘authentic’ matter? Similarly, does the ‘authentic’ matter even more now?
•Is the authentic even possible in this global age?


Neil Silberman, Center for Heritage and Society, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Theodore Gonzalves, American Studies, UMBC
Clifford Murphy, Maryland Traditions, Maryland State Arts Council
James Counts Early, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Heritage

Moderator: Michelle Stefano, Maryland Traditions and UMBC

Co-sponsored by the Dresher Center for the Humanities, American Studies Department and Modern Languages, Linguistics & Intercultural Communication (MLLI)

KICK OFF: Maryland Traditions' Film Series is back!

During the first week of April (exact date to be announced), please join us in the Center for Art Design and Visual Culture (CADVC) for the first in a series of screenings of short documentary films focused on a variety of ethnographic and artistic subjects!

More information will be posted here shortly.

Maryland Traditions and New Media Studio Team Up to Bowl!

Maryland Traditions and the New Media Studio at UMBC teamed up to make this short documentary on Patterson Bowling Center Duckpin Lanes in East Baltimore.

When we think of cultural traditions, the communities, groups and individuals who embody and practice them certainly come to mind. However, it is also important to remember the contribution of place to bringing people together to express, practice and learn living traditions. Places such as those used for worship, dance halls, neighborhood pubs, markets and cultural landscapes are integral to the sustainability of diverse social practices.

Patterson Bowling Center Duckpin Lanes is a particular place that has helped to sustain a very distinct living tradition, duckpin bowling, and strengthen – for almost a century – its ties to the ever-changing communities who learn, play and compete in it. While its origins have been traced to late 1800’s Massachusetts, it’s predominantly played in Maryland and has a special relationship to Baltimore, especially through its continued practice at Patterson Lanes. Opened in 1927, it is the oldest duckpin bowling alley in the world and the sole remaining duckpin-only alley in the city of Baltimore. Enjoy!

Prem Raja Mahat, Master Nepali Folk Singer and Musician, at UMBC

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Interview with Mimi Dietrich, Master Quilter

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