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Genuinely made up: camp, baroque, and other denaturalizing aesthetics in the cultural production of the real


  • I would like to thank my colleagues Niko Besnier, Lotte Hoek, Birgit Meyer, Annemarie Mol, and Johan Roeland for their comments on earlier drafts of this article, and express my gratitude to Matthew Engelke and the anonymous reviewers from the JRAI for their valuable suggestions for improving the manuscript.

Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, Oudezijdsvoorburgwal 185, 1012 DK Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The link that Jean-Jacques Rousseau forged a long time ago between the ‘real’ and the ‘natural’ has proved to be indissoluble. Time and again, contemporary constructions of the real mobilize all that can be linked to nature. Inauthentic, by contrast, is that which is fabricated, made up, artificial, the all-too-evident result of human design. In Bahia, Brazil, the author encountered a completely different mode in the cultural production of the real. Analysing the performance of a Bahian drag queen who goes by the name of Gina da Mascar, the author discusses ‘camp’ and ‘baroque’ as registers that foster a sensibility for (and appreciation of) cultural forms that are ‘truly false’. He shows how the appeal of these registers – their persuasiveness, their form of truth-telling – resonates with the sensibilities of people whose biographies are marked by radical discontinuities, and he argues that these registers might be understood as a popular articulation of the Lacanian understanding that symbolic closure is an impossibility.