The social sources of authenticity in global handicraft markets: Evidence from northern Thailand

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81 Scopus citations


What happens to authenticity in the age of global markets? Rather than enforce such sharp dichotomies as 'authentic/inauthentic' (object) or 'exploited/not-exploited' (artisan), this article recognizes that the notion of authenticity evolves and gains strength through a process of differentiation that largely relies on the social situations that the artisans, the sellers and the buyers inhabit. This article documents how the Thai artisans of the Hang Dong district have diversified their notions of authenticity in producing and marketing their ethnic and tourist arts. Handicraft artisans and entrepreneurs sometimes create multiple meanings of authenticity to accommodate, modify, and at times resist, the effects of globalization on local culture and local economic life. These different understandings of authenticity initially direct the course of production and exchange; but new, sometimes unexpected, understandings emerge in the course of action. The four social sources of authenticity are reactive identity, reluctant engagement, complicit appropriation, and transcendental values. Each source has a different effect on how much local control artisans exert in production and exchange and how long traditional motifs and production processes endure in the commercial market for crafts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-32
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


  • Authenticity
  • Cultural commodities
  • Economic sociology
  • Ethnic art
  • Handicrafts
  • Markets
  • Thailand
  • Tourism
  • Tourist art


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