Credentialism and Other Modern Traditions: It's a Post-Authentic World

A note to those who are imprudent enough not to follow the Japanese side of Frog in a Well:  Jonathan Dresner has a smart, witty, and informative piece, Credentialism and Other Modern Traditions which riffs on the proposal to make 和食 [washoku, Japanese cuisine] an “intangible cultural asset.”  Jonathan is especially sharp about the idea that Japanese food is uniquely unique, which plays along with my comments on “authenticity” in my piece on Chop Suey.

Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen’s keynote speech to the South by Southwest Music Conference in Austin took on the critics who wanted to keep rock and roll pure. Springsteen said we live in a “post-authentic world” with new forms, genres, influences, and instruments he couldn’t have imagined when he started out. Whether an artist is using a computer or a guitar, “there is no pure way of doing it, there’s just doing it.”

It’s all chop suey. We can still decide that something tastes awful, but we can’t dismiss it simply because it’s not “authentic.”



  1. Thanks, Charles!

    I have a caveat to the “post-authentic World” though. When someone/thing claims authenticity – as when, for example, movie-makers claim fidelity to historical truth – then we should be able to question the claim, refute or uphold it as necessary.

  2. Another strong point, Jonathan. It goes to show how dangerous a word “authentic” is when we use it in so many senses when we really should use a more specific word. I like your “fidelity,” which is preferable to “authentic,” because we can then test it in the way you suggest.

  3. Tempura came from the Portuguese, noodles from the Chinese, and as for cooking, the Japanese prefer their food uncooked. After WW2, the first thing the Americans did for the Japanese was to deworm them.

  4. Hmm, not sure of your point J Chan.

    Sushi was not big in Japan until fairly recently, and that’s the only uncooked food I can think of. See Ted Bestor’s book on the Tsukiji fish market. After WWII the Americans did plenty of things in Japan. Do you have a source for saying which of them was the “first thing”

  5. Don’t know, as I am not too sure about your point either. For a “post-authentic world” there had to be an “authentic world” in the first place, and presumably a “pre-authentic world” before that. I don’t think you have told us what these are or were.

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