History at Leicester

Consuming Authenticities

Arts and Humanities Research Council (£54,753)
November 2014 – November 2015

Cultural products often depend on ideas about authenticity for commercial success, drawing emotional responses from consumers and evoking a sense of local, ethnic or even national identity. To designate a product as authentic can be a politically, economically and culturally charged process, partly because the ways we think about time and history are deeply involved in this process. Different interpretations of the past and different visions for the future can be experienced or represented through a product that is considered to be culturally authentic. In this sense, authenticity can be a central ingredient in the celebration and commemoration of different identities, social practices and histories. However, it can also marginalise, exclude, exploit or damage others, and so it is important to understand how such ideas come about.

This project therefore aims to identify and discuss how different temporal concepts, like timelessness and tradition, and different understandings of history, are involved in the creation of ideas about authenticity. We will also assess the relationship between these temporal categories and the spatial, or place-based, concepts that contribute to constructions of authenticity, such as locality, homeland and metropolis.

Our focus on foods and drinks

The study concentrates on foods and drinks, as they are relatively everyday things that can take on special significance due to their connection to certain traditions, origins, places, or histories. The project focuses on pulque (an alcoholic drink from Central Mexico), acarajé (a street snack from Brazil), flaounes (celebration Easter pies from Cyprus) and Welsh craft cider. We aim to gather the perspectives and experiences of those with a personal connection to, or general interest in, these products, such as food writers, cooks, producers, retailers, and consumers. We are inviting these groups to contribute impressions about the authenticities of each food/drink during special events to inform our production of a recipe-style book that discusses the role of history in making ideas about the authenticity of pulque, acarajé, flaounes and craft cider.

Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past

Consuming Authenticities is part of a broad research theme being explored by numerous teams sponsored by the AHRC – Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past. This theme is about exploring the relationship between various pasts, presents, and possible futures and how our understandings of history and time inform the way we think about ourselves and our place in the world.

By analysing how temporal and place-based concerns interact in the construction of cultural authenticity, our project aims to develop the Care for the Future theme by providing a conceptual model for exploring other temporal concepts that connect together pasts, presents and futures (e.g. progress, legacy) and how other cultural products and experiences (e.g. heritage sites) are constructed as authentic.

Find out more information on our project staff.

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