Eicher, J.B. and T.V. Erekosima. 1995. “Why Do They Call It Kalabari? Cultural Authentication and the Demarcation of Ethnic Identity.”

Eicher, Joanne B. and Tonye V. Erekosima. 1995. “Why Do They Call It Kalabari? Cultural Authentication and the Demarcation of Ethnic Identity.” Pp. 139-164 in Dress and Ethnicity: Change Across Space and Time, edited by Joanne B. Eicher. Washington D.C.: Berg.

“For some, the word ethnic represents an unchanging pattern or artifact of exotic lifeways, something coming from the past.  Some also consider the ‘ethnic’ concept as merely a fashionable invention used for giving an appearance of ‘traditionality’ to products” (here 144, see latter Sollors 1989).

“[…] ethnic cultural resources are often as ingrained in the history of ethnic groups as they are made relevant to contemporary situations. Ethnicity combines both cultural stability and change in dynamic interplay, and supports a process by which folklife expressions are ‘continually added to the pool of a group’s cultural resources, which, in turn, are used to examine [and adapt to] new problems and concerns’” (Stern and Cicala 1991: xii, here 144).

Burke (1947): Ethnic expressions (either verbal, material, etc.) reflect and work to solve problems.

“Dress as a demarcation of ethnicity is not merely a static product of an ethnic group, but allows ethnic group members to provide solutions to problematic situations that characterize, project, and sometimes even parody everyday life through efforts to reconcile their real and ideal worlds” (144).

Ethnic symbols source not just from an (kx^ imagined past), but are evidence of dynamic contemporary interchange – they “are not fixed points of tradition, but rather frames of reference and meaning within which ethnics respond to social, political, religious or economic pressures” (Stern and Cicala 1991: xiii, here 146).

—- Identifies four (inter-related) steps of cultural authentication: selection, characterization, incorporation, and transformation

  • Selection: External cultural practice/product deemed appropriate/desirable
  • Characterization: Practice/product is attributed meaning, term, language – situated and related to other object/concepts — “The item may be renamed by members of the culture, in their own language, choosing the item or process or translating in any other expressive form into the mapping system of order by which the members of the culture conceptually define or iconically portray their experiences and artifacts” (145).
  • Incorporation: Product/practice is innovative enough to suggest adoption or adaptation of current systems of behavior/language
  • Transformation: Product/practice is fully integrated within new cultural setting – repurposed to new uses, but still holding forms of previous cultural “life”

kx^ however, are these steps of appropriation – and if so, what direction do they suggest?  Incorporation of new influences on ethnic identity/goods, or the influx and re-branding of ethnic items with new mainstream meanings?    How does this “incorporation” process work to set boundaries of authenticity, belonging, etc.?  I seem to have missed this… *discuss with KMS?


Burke, K. 1947. The Philosophy of Literary Form. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University.

Sollors, W. (Editor.) 1989. The Invention of Ethnicity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stern, S. and J.A. Cicala, (eds.) 1991. Creative Ethnicity: Symbols and Strategies of Contemporary Ethnic Life. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.


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