Author Topic: Cultural Appropriation  (Read 831 times)

Claireliontamer

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Cultural Appropriation
« on: June 17, 2017, 12:41:53 PM »
I've been watching a debate between two of my friends on facebook that has made me think.

The debate surrounds the idea of cultural appropriation and how getting hand henna tattoos at music festivals could be insulting to the cultures who use hand henna tattoos as part of their wedding celebrations.

I'm wondering where you draw the line though.  We have always 'borrowed' things from other cultures, take food for example it seems okay for a Brit like me to try and cook an Indian curry.  Or am I insulting people by doing this?

How do we make the distinction between being interested in another culture and insulting it?

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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2017, 01:00:42 PM »
You will just have to talk to people from the culture you want to borrow from. If nobody you know is like that, then fuck it.
But, uh...well there it is.
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Dave

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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2017, 01:14:42 PM »
I don't think they can complain about the idea of temporary tattoos. However if patterns that have a specific or significant cultural meaning are used then I feel that is wrong.

Basically it is just one form of body/face painting, a decorative or ceremonial practice that has a long history in many cultures IIRC. As kids we used to have coloured transfers that, sort of, formed a badge for a temporary micro-culture. Punks and Goths used face paints to make them identifiable members of a sub-culture, along with the uniform of torn jeans, chains, black gear etc.

Whether henna or a modern substitutes are used makes little difference I think, but the patterns and symbols are another thing. A woman reporter once told of her experience in Africa. She liked one of the little bead pendant necklaces in a local shop so bought it and put it on. All the local wonen started pointing at her and giggling. Each pattern on the pendants had a specific meaning - the one she bought said, basically, "I am a woman of easy virtue".

Misappropriating cultural symbolism can have nasty consequences.
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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2017, 02:10:00 PM »
Gloucester's example is a good one, but unfortunately this debate has reached rather silly depths. For example, a bunch of students at Oberlin College protested because they felt the cafeteria was culturally appropriating dishes from other countries because they didn't cook them "authentically". One of the dishes was General Tso's chicken, which was invented in the US, not China. Somehow that detail was overlooked.
I've also seen people claim that yoga should not be taught in the US by white people for the same reason. Really, at what point do you draw the line? Should we stop listening to rock music because it came from black blues music that white musicians adapted? Should we stop speaking romance languages because it appropriates Latin? Obviously I'm being rhetorical, but this is the problem with a vague accusation such as this.
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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2017, 03:29:48 PM »
To me it seems that this is condescending. That the would-be 'protectors' of immigrant cultures are saying that those cultures aren't viable without the 'protectors' speaking up for them. I'm not sure how this is supposed to work in the long run. Is the desired outcome that the immigrants never become part of the dominant culture, forever living in their cultural bubble; 'separate but equal'?
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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2017, 03:53:38 PM »
The problem I have with the concept of "cultural appropriation" (at least when taken to extremes) is "how am I supposed to appreciate your culture if I'm never allowed to experience it?" Food is the biggest one for me; if I eat something delicious from another culture, I may want to try my hand cooking it at home. But, being a typical American with access to typical American ingredients and typical American cookware or whatnot, I may have to approximate. Hell, I approximate dishes from my own culture all the time, because of the ingredients I have on hand, or because I think adding X would make it taste better, or because I'm being lazy and the actual recipe is too much work, but I can get "close enough" by skipping these steps and doing Y instead. I can understand why some cultural appropriation is insensitive and offensive. Such as people dressing up as a charicature of a culture for Halloween (the infamous "Sexy Indian Brave" type costumes come to mind.) Reducing people's cultures into cartoon character stereotypes is rarely a good idea. And I can see the henna thing; taking a symbol that is sacred to someone as a fashion accessory with no real understanding of its cultural meaning is pretty trivializing. But there has to be a line. And I think that there is value in "allowing" people to share and appreciate your culture even if they don't get it perfectly.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2017, 06:19:31 PM »
I took tae qwon do as a kid. My instructor was white and his gi was star spangled. I asked him why that was. He said his instructors taught him that you must have pride for your country. Which is true if you look up tae kwon do rules.

If the koreans never imigrated to the usa and taught my instructor tae kwon do, I would never have learned it. So I'm thankful to Koreans for what they have done in the martial arts community. But that doesn't mean some university kid can come and disrespect my master because they think he is culturally appropriating taekwondo by wearing a star spangled gi. These kids know very little about martial arts and I would not let them disrespect my sacred martial art if they did do that.

However, some martial arts are better than tae kwon do. I realize that and accept it. Not too long ago there was a mixed martial artist who went into hiding after beating a tai chi fighter in China. Sometimes we have to accept that we westerners adapt things and make them better. And if we worry about who is offending who when they try their thing for themselves, we will never see the newer and better evolution of their thing. (And fyi, China reversed engineered American cars and started making their own based on that. Why? Because it's part of their culture to do so)
But, uh...well there it is.
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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2017, 10:44:05 PM »
You will just have to talk to people from the culture you want to borrow from. If nobody you know is like that, then fuck it.

The thing is that what is and is not cultural appropriation isn't agreed on even within cultures being protected.  Firebird's yoga example for instance -- I remember reading an article by an Indian-American woman who was all hot and bothered about white people practicing yoga, but admitted that her parents had no problem with it at all, in fact they found it flattering that people outside Indian culture were taking it up.

And then there's this:


A man from China named Zhang Wei-Qiang, now a Canadian citizen named Johnny W. Chang, danced the lead in the ballet Dracula, based on a story by an Irish writer who took extreme creative license with a legendary but real Transylvanian nobleman.  Is there cultural appropriation going on here?  How much and on whose part?  Does it matter if Chang was brilliant as Dracula?  (he was, in my opinion -- I saw the performance on TV)
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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2017, 11:02:38 PM »
I think these clashes are inevitable in our "Global Village" and must happen whenever different cultures interact. The Neanderthals probably complained that the humans were stealing some of their traditions.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2017, 11:53:23 PM »
We're all humans. We can all do what we want that does not hurt any one else. And as imitation is the greatest form of flattery there really is no such thing as cultural appropriation, it's really cultural admiration. But there are always those that 'take' offence when it suits them. 
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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2017, 12:08:21 AM »
There's a post discussing this on FB too, and one person made the point that appropriation involves taking something away from someone else, and since culture is a shared experience it can't be "appropriated". 
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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #11 on: June 18, 2017, 12:34:29 AM »
There's a post discussing this on FB too, and one person made the point that appropriation involves taking something away from someone else, and since culture is a shared experience it can't be "appropriated".

Er, hang on, um...

"...culture is a shared experience..."  I don't think that's true, unless it is between members of the same cultural group. FGM is a "cultural" practice - not a legal or religious imperitive. Drinking alcohol as a social behaviour is a cultural practice for some and not for others. Culture can be a shared experience in terms of appreciation, rather thsn practice.

Now, "cultural misappropriation", especially when symbolism or iconography that has an emotional or historical importance to that culture is involved, may be grounds for valid complaint. No matter what you think of Christianity, for an e.g., using a crucifix in a sexual act is not exactly civilized behaviour.

Whereas, as I said before, using a dye to draw temporary non-culturally significant designs on the skin is not unique to any one culture - no valid complaint.
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Claireliontamer

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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2017, 02:02:39 AM »
I've been doing a bit more reading on this in order to try and understand it a little more.  The sources of information tend to be opinion pieces in publications but here are some common feelings about it.

The main issue doesn't seem to be cultural appreciation but when members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.  In that way it's different from cultural exchange and assimilation.

Some examples that keep coming up are:  Washington Redskins NFL team using that name, things that are ‘Cool’ for White People – But ‘Too Ethnic’ for People of Colour like cornrows in hair, things that perpetuate stereotypes about a culture, people wearing native american headdresses as fashion accessories.

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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2017, 02:23:43 AM »
I've been doing a bit more reading on this in order to try and understand it a little more.  The sources of information tend to be opinion pieces in publications but here are some common feelings about it.

The main issue doesn't seem to be cultural appreciation but when members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.  In that way it's different from cultural exchange and assimilation.

Some examples that keep coming up are:  Washington Redskins NFL team using that name, things that are ‘Cool’ for White People – But ‘Too Ethnic’ for People of Colour like cornrows in hair, things that perpetuate stereotypes about a culture, people wearing native american headdresses as fashion accessories.

Good points, Claire, and perhaps that reinforces the conceot of "cultural misappropriation". I wonder how New Zealand Maoris, in general, feel about  members of the "All Blacks" rugby team, of other than Maori descent, using an imitation of the "haka" at matches? That ceremonial war dance is a very important part of the Maori heritage.

One people's valued culture should not be merely a fashion statement, probably temporarily, for another.
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Claireliontamer

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Re: Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #14 on: June 18, 2017, 04:30:55 AM »

 I wonder how New Zealand Maoris, in general, feel about  members of the "All Blacks" rugby team, of other than Maori descent, using an imitation of the "haka" at matches? That ceremonial war dance is a very important part of the Maori heritage.


I found this
which seems to suggest they aren't all happy about how popular it has become in mainstream culture.

I wonder how many people would know about the Haka without rugby?