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Elusive Authenticity: The Quest for the Authentic Indian in German Public Culture

  • H. Glenn Penny (a1)

The German fascination with the American Indian is legion, enduring, and much more than a current, post-modern enchantment with ‘the primitive.’ Indeed, the special and continuing relationship between Germans and Indians is well known, and in recent years it has received considerable scholarly attention. One striking aspect of this relationship is the seemingly endless effort by scholars, museum curators, pedagogues, and dilettantes of all fashions to control the discourse on ‘Indianness’ in Germany by denouncing popular clichés and attempting to replace them with new versions of ‘the authentic Indian.’ Their ongoing efforts to harness concepts of authenticity while policing this discourse are hardly surprising; indeed they have become predictable. But the lack of self-reflection with which most people participate in this process is remarkable. Few laymen or scholars seem to notice that they are the latest participants in a repetitive process that has been going on in German-speaking lands for close to 200 years, and even fewer seem to notice the ironic turn it has recently taken.

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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