Rethinking fakes, authenticating selves


  • This article is based on doctoral fieldwork that was made possible by grants from the Romanian Cultural Institute and Marie Curie SocAnth. I would like to express my gratitude to Daniel Miller, Matthew Engelke, Annelies Moors, Catherine Alexander, Janine Su, Besim Can Zırh, and the four anonymous reviewers for the JRAI for their helpful comments on my work. Drafts of this article were presented at the Research Seminars in Material, Visual and Digital Culture (UCL) and the 2010 American Anthropological Association Meeting. I would like to thank all those who engaged critically with them.

The British Institute at Ankara, Gulgun Girdivan, Tahran Caddesi 24, Kavaklidere, Ankara TR-06700.


People who engage with objects that are deemed inauthentic under intellectual property laws might dismiss this classification and might ascribe different meanings to these objects. However, they cannot always disregard it, as circumstances might at any time bring this classification to the fore. In such situations, they are not only accused of deceiving others, but also derided for the deception they presumably work upon themselves. Drawing upon an ethnography of people's engagement with fake branded garments in Turkey and Romania and using theoretical perspectives on materiality and authenticity, I argue that a reconceptualization of the fake is a dignifying resolution to this crisis of authenticity. The fake is seen as a copy that does not hide its true nature. This is further elaborated on, in light of individual agendas and approaches to the world. These objects are ‘similar enough’, ‘good enough’, and ‘famous enough’. The fake is, thus, ‘sort of something’, the approximation of the ideal. Moreover, the fake is truthful to how the world truly is, namely a place full of half-truths and half-measures. The fake is, therefore, ‘sort of something’, as opposed to being ‘absolutely something’, the objectification of the ideal.