Environmental and Planning C: Politics and Space 38(6) pp 1091-1107

At present, there seems to be somewhat of a paradox between critical academic and more political and popular understandings of authenticity. At one level, the notion of authenticity has become passé, almost a dirty word, for critical social theorists and human geographers: being something that reflects, at best, naïve, or at worst, essentialist and exclusionary ways of thinking. At the same time, we are in the middle of a period during which notions of authenticity have never been as prominent within political and public debate. In this paper, we develop the notion of sincerity as a way of enabling a more progressive interpretation of authenticity. We illustrate the value of this approach through a case study of the identities and cultures promoted within the education system in Wales. We witness here an emphasis on a negotiated sense of Welsh identity and one that is sensitive to difference, in spatial and scalar contexts. We conclude the paper by suggesting that the notion of sincerity might provide critical social scientists with a potential way of developing a more progressive and inclusive understanding of authenticity.