JUNIOR SEMINAR: FAKES
2011/2012, Semester 1
Non-Faculty-Based Departments (Tembusu College)
Modular Credits: 4
In this junior seminar, students will examine the significance of various kinds of false appearances such as counterfeits, forgeries, hoaxes, and liars, together with attempts to expose them – sometimes with the help of sophisticated technologies. By critically examining what it means to designate an object, practice or person as ‘fake’, and how different kinds of fakes are judged as more or less problematic, students will develop the capacity to think critically and relationally about deep-seated human desires for ‘truth’ and ‘value’.
The module will be conducted in discussion seminar style with a maximum of 15 students per class and three contact hours per teaching week.
The seminar consists of four parts. The descriptions below will give you an indication of the content of each part.
Part I: Fake Goods and Global Trade (wk 1-5)
This first part of the seminar focuses on the circulation of fake goods in the global economy. We will start by examining why and how fakes have become such an integral part of the consumption of branded luxury goods. What is it that makes a fake Louis Vuitton, Gucci or Prada product attractive to so many of us? We then look at the rise of the counterfeit industry through which fake goods (luxury and otherwise) are supplied. China is often singled out as the number one counterfeit producing country. We will look at how this came to be, and we will highlight the global connections through which the fake trade thrives. Who benefits and who suffers as a result of this trade? Why is it so difficult to battle counterfeiting?
Part II: Exposing Fakes and Fakers (wk 6-9)
In this part, we will look at efforts to tell fakes apart from the ‘real’ thing. Taking as case studies famous instances of art and document forgery, we will explore the role of experts and the philosophical complexities involved in working out what exactly constitutes the difference between ‘real’ and ‘fake’. In week 8, we will shift our focus to signs of fakery in people. Is it possible, as some psychologists have attempted, to develop an objective coding system for distinguishing ‘real’ from ‘fake’ smiles? How does the way we smile in the context of everyday professional and personal interaction complicate such efforts?
Part III: Complications (wk 10-11)
(Contents still somewhat provisional.) In this part, we will consider examples of fakes and fakery that escape, or at least destabilise, the negative connotations we so often attach to the non-real or non-authentic. Case studies are likely to include: the use of placebos in medicine, the popularity of fake news shows such as
(in Singapore) and
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
(in the United States), and the way artists use fakery in their work to critique notions of cultural authenticity. Can fakes play a positive role in human interaction or does the sense that there is something ‘not right’ about them remain, even in these instances?
Part IV: Reflections (wk 12-13)
In the final part of the seminar, we will reflect on the different kinds of fakes and different angles encountered in the module and will work towards multiple typologies of fakes. Having discussed the topic over an entire semester, how can we clarify other people’s thinking about fakes? Are some fakes more problematic than others? How and why can an engagement with questions of fakery illuminate deep-seated human desires for ‘truth’ and ‘value’?
Students are expected to acquire an understanding of:
The rise of counterfeit goods and its implications, including how the availability of fake products mediates the meaning and value we place on commodities and consumption
The complex, multi-faceted relationship between the fake and the real, especially as evident in efforts to denounce and expose forms of fakery
By the end of the seminar, students should:
Be able to ask pertinent questions as a key part of academic inquiry
Have gained basic skills in relational (as opposed to ‘essentializing’) ways of thinking about problems and phenomena
Have gained confidence in presenting their own views and engaging with those of others in a seminar setting
Like all Junior Seminars,
is graded on a pass/fail (S/U) basis, and there will be no final exam. The various CA (continuous assessment) components listed below will be graded for internal reference purposes and also to let you know where you stand, but these grades are not consequential for your CAP.
Essay 1: 1000 words, related to part I on
Fake Goods and Global Trade
. Due on Thursday 8 September at 8pm (counts for 15% of final grade).
Essay 2: 1500 words, related to part II on
Exposing Fakes and Fakers
. Due on Thursday 13 October at 8pm (counts for 25% of final grade).
A typology of fakes: no word count specified, related to the entire module. Due Friday 11 November at 6pm (counts for 10% of final grade).
Seminar Participation and Preparation
You will be given one grade for general participation, which involves: attendance, punctuality, readiness to present your views and ideas, and willingness to engage with the ideas put forward by others. Your participation grade counts for 25% of the final grade.
Throughout the semester, for each week in which readings and/or viewings are assigned (8 weeks in total), you are required to prepare a short written response (see above). These responses serve as input for the discussion, and together they count for 25% of the final grade.
Readings and Viewings
Thurs 11 Aug
Mon 15 & Thurs 18 Aug
Fake designer goods: the consumers’ point of view
“[Fakes] are, before all else, a response to demand, an ever changing portrait of human desires. Each society, each generation, fakes the thing it covets most.”
McCartney, S. (2005) Real stories about fakes. In:
The fake factor: Why we love brands but buy fakes
(London, Cyan), pp. 45-57. (e-reserves)
Chadha, R. & Husband, P. (2006) Advent of the genuine fakes. In:
The cult of the luxury brand: Inside Asia's love affair with luxury
(London & Boston, Nicholas Brealey International), pp. 268-281. (e-reserves)
Gouveia, A. (2011). "John Terry’s illegal shopping spree in Dubai " Ahlan!live.com 8 July (
Von Hahn, K. (2011). "Beijing knockoffs a booming business." thestar.com 7 July (
Mon 22 & Thurs 25 Aug
“China who makes and fakes”
Why has the counterfeit industry thrived in China in recent decades? What does the stereotypical image of China as the world’s number one counterfeit nation tell us about relations between China and the West?
Lin, Y-C. J. (2011), Introduction. In:
Fake stuff: China and the rise of counterfeit goods
(New York, Routledge), pp.1-10. (e-reserves)
Hung, C. L. (2003). "The business of product counterfeiting in China and the post-WTO membership environment."
Asia Pacific Business Review
10(1): 58-77 (only pp. 58-67). (access directly through library)
Epstein, G. (2009). "China's black market boom."
Yang, H. (2007). "Is Counterfeiting a Part of Chinese Culture?"
China Intellectual Property
The Fake Trade
, Channel 4, UK, part 1 (2008)
Mon 29 August & Thurs 1 Sept
What are the costs and who are the victims of the fake trade? Why are fakes so hard to fight?
Amine, L. S. and P. Magnusson (2007). "Cost-benefit models of stakeholders in the global counterfeiting industry and marketing response strategies."
Multinational Business Review
15(2): 63-86. (access directly through e-library)
Cockburn, R., P. N. Newton, et al. (2005). "The global threat of counterfeit drugs: Why industry and governments must communicate the dangers."
2(4): e100. (access directly through e-library)
Burki, T. (2010). "The real cost of counterfeit medicines."
The Lancet Infectious Diseases
10(9): 585-586. (access directly through e-library)
Thomas, D. (2009). "The fight against fakes." Harper's Bazaar
The Fake Trade
, Channel 4, UK, part 2 (2008)
Websites to explore:
The Anti-Counterfeiting Group
International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition
Fakes are Never in Fashion
Presentation of ideas for Essay 1
Mon 5 Sept & Thurs 8 Sept
Presentation of ideas and work on Essay 1
Jones, M. (1990). Why fakes? In:
Fake? The Art of Deception
(exhibition catalogue). M. Jones. Berkeley & Los Angeles, University of California Press: 11-16, p.13.
Pang, L. (2008). "China who makes and fakes': A semiotics of the counterfeit."
Theory, Culture & Society
Mon 12 & Thurs 15 Sept
How experts spot (and fail to spot) fakes
What is the nature of the expertise required to unmask fakes and forgeries in the worlds of art, antiquities, and valuable documents?
How is it that fakes and forgeries still slip through the net? In what ways are experts fallible?
Hoving, T. (1996). Fakebusters, fakers, and how to tell a fake. In:
False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-time Art Fakes.
New York, Simon & Schuster: 19-23. (e-reserves)
Fields, J. A. and K. R. Seddon (2002). Scientific detection of fakes and forgeries? In :
Dunhuang Manuscript Forgeries,
edited by S. Whitfield. London, The British Library: 33-40.
Craddock, P. (2009). Introduction: Sources, motives, approaches and disclosures. In:
Scientific Investigation of Copies, Fakes and Forgeries
. Amsterdam, Elsevier: 1-21. (handout)
Landesman, P. (1999). "A 20th-century master scam."
The New York Times Magazine
, 18 July, (
ITV television drama-documentary mini-series (1991) – episode 2
Mon 26 & Thurs 29 Sept
What do forgeries teach us about the nature of art and art appreciation?
Lessing, A. (1983) What is wrong with a forgery? In:
The Forger’s art: Forgery and the philosophy of art, edited by
D. Dutton. Berkeley, University of California Press: 58-76. (e-reserves)
Dutton, D. (2008 ). Artistic crimes. In:
Arguing about Art: Contemporary Philosophical Debates
, third edition, edited by A. Neill and A. Ridley. London and New York, Routledge: 102-114. (workbin)
Koestler, A. (1964). Confusion and sterility: The aesthetics of snobbery. In:
The Act of Creation.
London, Hutchinson: 400-409. (workbin)
Mon 3 & Thurs 6 Oct
What does research on fake smiles tell us about the boundary between lies and truth?
Ekman, P., Friesen, W.V. and O'Sullivan, M. (1997 ) Smiles when lying. In:
What the face reveals: basic and applied studies of spontaneous expression using the facial action coding system (FACS)
, edited by P. Ekman and E. Rosenberg. New York and Oxford, Oxford University Press: 201-214. (e-reserves)
Take the following test and note down your score and your reaction:
Hochschild, A.R. (2003)
The managed heart: Commercialization of human feeling
, twentieth anniversary edition. Berkeley, University of California Press: 3-9 and 30-34. (workbin)
Lie To Me
(2009 US series with Tim Roth), episode 2
Optional reading linked to Ekman / Lie to Me:
Optional reading linked to Hochschildt:
Presentation of ideas for Essay 2
Mon 10 & Thurs 13 Oct
Presentation of ideas and work on Essay 2
Detailed week plan and readings beyond Week 9 will be announced soon.
Only Tembusu College, U Town students may take this module