Michael / Atratus (mbarrick) wrote,
Michael / Atratus


It's an interesting leftover of colonialism that Westerners continue to look India and the Far East for "authenticity". This fetishised Orientalism is particularly bizarre in the local context of greater Vancouver where over one third of the population has ethnic and cultural roots in these "exotic" locales, yet somehow the notion persists that in order to touch some sort of authentic spirituality one must travel to India or the Far East. What authenticity did the people who moved here lose by doing so? Did it happen to me? Is my European heritage less authentic for being here?

The local aboriginal cultures here are no less rich and equally far removed from Europe as the Far East - and one need only go the lower east side to find these authentic, exotic (from a Eurocentric point of view) people living in a colonial squalor no less real than the slums of Calcutta or Hong Kong. But it is the colonial mind-set itself that precludes this. The local cannot be authentic, only the exotically far-away and foreign. But Paris is as far from Vancouver as Tokyo or Beijing. Rome is even farther. And from the colonial perspective British Columbia is as far from Europe as India or China (and harder to get to).

Yet Europe, especially the prosperous parts of Western Europe, are excluded from being exotic and "authentic" for having been the colonial source. Only impoverished areas that fell under colonial oppression like Scotland, Ireland, the formerly Soviet controlled areas and the like manage to achieve some aspect of "authenticity". Still though, the commonly noted motivations for travelling through the great cities of Europe are "culture" and "education" but never the sort of enlightenment that motivates people of European ancestry to travel to more "exotic" countries.

Europe is no more or less authentic than anywhere else on the planet. I've never understood why someone of European descent living here would be inclined to try to find personal meaning in some place that has as little to do with their ancestry as this place right here. The very word "authenticity" implies looking to the author, the source. The source of European culture and history is Europe.

And even at that, what is so inauthentic about right here? Why should any of us living here, regardless of where our ancestors hail from, be trying to copy from, report back to, catch up with, seek the approval of, etc. of any place other than here? Isn't it about time the colonial mindset of even looking for "authenticity" elsewhere was done away with entirely so we can go about simply being Vancouverites and being our own authors?
Tags: art theory, authenticity, colonialism, culture, europe, vancouver
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