The Department of Sociology and the Multicultural Student Development welcomes Dr. Amanda Koontz Anthony to present her research on authenticity, “Consuming Authenticity: The Influence of Racial Authenticity on Our Everyday Lives.” This presentation will be on November 2nd at 7 pm in room 114, Belk Library and is open and free to the public.
Whether in discussions of quality, being true to oneself, or having a genuine experience, authenticity is an important value across identities and cultures. More specifically, she will discuss how this topic overlaps with another critical subject of the social construction of race through focusing on racialized authentication. Here is what Dr. Anthony suggests about the importance of studying authenticity:
Authenticity is everywhere. Microbreweries sell their beer as authentic - local beer created from hard work and passion. Sports drinks are sold through black authentication, where the athletes are defined as physical, passionate figures who need to refuel with the best so they can perform to the best of their ability. Tourism sells the "real" experience - where you can see the "real" (fill in the blank place) - it comes through food, where you eat authentic Mexican or Cajun, selling the food that it is the best and represents the history of the place. We see authenticity in music, whether it is subcultural and against and the mainstream (this is why artists can "sell out"), but gritty and speaking from the heart of the artists vs. symphonies, where one must be authentic and true to the original score, as it was intended. We have authentic leadership, even in politics, where we are concerned about whether someone is really "being themselves" and speaking from the "heart."
Authenticity can relate to nostalgia, where a place is authentic because it remains "unchanged" and is a glimpse into the past - whether it’s an authentic diner from the 50s or a rural community (romanticizing poverty) or aboriginal traditions. Clothes and furniture and cars are all sold as a lifestyle brand where it represents the "real you" - buy this brand over the other because it represents the authentic you - edgy or professional or flirty or sexy or manly. It is the symbolic representation of your essence. This can even be found with the slow movements, moving away from corporations, with authenticity coming from a sense of place (we know who grew this and where they did it and they can tell their story of farm to table or what forest the wood came from to create your table).
Authenticity clearly relates to race because there are social expectations for what is real. According to Collins, black authenticity began with working-class authentication. Real blackness equates to controlling images that are also gendered and sexualized. Black women were seen as mammies, jezebels, or welfare queens - either hyper- or -undersexualized women. These stereotypes constrained black women to either being caregivers for others, who put others first and took care of them (safe to white people) or hyper-sexualized because of their bodies and dangerous. This also goes for men, who are either the black buddy (the side kick) or hypersexualized and dangerous - from the streets.
We see this a lot with rap and athletes, where credit is given to their physicality versus the mental prowess of white athletes. But because it is grounded is their "innate" talents and sexuality, it makes black men dangerous to white women, for instance, and their work is underplayed. Although there are translations into the middle class now, it still represents an image that real people have to go against or conform to - expectations that people bring into interactions, often subconsciously. This can be difficult to negotiate because there are hegemonic ideals that say we should be ourselves, find ourselves, and are responsible for our own actions, decisions, and success (neoliberalism at its finest). Therefore, minority individuals must "be themselves" and yet also negotiate these very real constraints that derive from media. How can one be "themselves" by wearing natural hair and yet become a mother while taking time out for themselves while putting others first at work while eating slow grown food while making the right decisions for their loved ones so they are successful? It can also create racial tensions because of the expectations that are brought into situations when there is a lack of actual interactions and only media-fed stereotypes or limited representations (symbolic annihilation).
Dr. Anthony has published on the topics of racialized authentication and black authenticity, and for this talk will look at how forms of racial authentication affect our interactions with peers, popular media, consumer products, and our own definitions of self. By looking at the topic from multiple angles, this talk intends to offer new ways to consider these topics through a more encompassing viewpoint of authenticity.
It should be noted that Dr. Anthony grew up in Durham, N.C. and graduated with her B.A. in Sociology from Appalachian State in 2007. She received her doctorate from Florida State University and is now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at University of Central Florida. Her research interests include culture, inequalities, and social psychology. She will also meet with two Sociology classes to discuss her research and overall success as a sociologist who graduated from App State.