In Hungary, the decline of traditional peasant culture and its heritage has prompted urban revivals, leading to the acceptance of traditional Hungarian folk singing as a performing arts genre. Drawing from a series of in-depth interviews, this study shows how contemporary Hungarian folk singers navigate (define, learn, police) different forms of authenticity within the field of folk music. While we find that objectified authenticity – heritagized classification systems – is the dominant form of symbolic capital, the broader symbolic economy of authenticity is complicated by competing definitions of folk singing as, variously, culture, heritage, and art. Third-person authenticity is more highly regarded, but it is more difficult for contemporary urban folk singers to achieve because they were not socialized in peasant communities. Therefore, they use objectified authenticity such as ‘original recordings’ as a proxy for learning about living folk culture. Although objectified authenticity constrains the agency of artistic expression, it affords discriminatory creativity (choosing one’s own repertoire) and rationalized creativity (adapting traditional material to external values and contexts).

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Keywords Authenticity, boundaries, folk music, heritage, Hungary, singing, folk singers, urban revival, artistic legitimation, Táncház movement
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Journal Cultural Sociology
Nagy-Sándor, Z, & Berkers, P.P.L. (2018). Culture, heritage, art: Navigating authenticities in contemporary Hungarian folk singing. Cultural Sociology, 12(3), 400–417. doi:10.1177/1749975518780770