Turquoise is a distinctive part of the material culture of the Indigenous tribes of the American Southwest, including the Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo peoples. The stone, particularly its color, is situated within complex systems of culture and meaning for each tribe, but the physical nature of material culture makes such pieces accessible for outsiders to borrow, buy, or steal. The aesthetic of the southwestern Indigenous tribe, traced in this paper through the use of turquoise, has been drawn upon by non-Native Westerners pursuing authenticity in their American lives. My findings suggest that true authenticity is marked by authentic engagement, and as aestheticization moves toward fetishization, the contextual cultural meaning is lost, replaced by superficial commercial value. I conclude that those seeking authenticity through Indigenous cultures should consider matching their aesthetic interests with actual engagement that seeks to achieve mutually beneficial ends.
Dr. Joyce Rain Anderson, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Lee Torda, Committee Member
Dr. Diana J. Fox, Committee Member
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Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
Staples, Madison. (2021). An Aesthetic of Authenticity: The Use of Turquoise in American (Counter)Culture. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 494. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/494
Copyright © 2021 Madison Staples
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