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  1. #11
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by Chatelaine View Post
    I personally see nothing wrong with it. Cultural boundaries are not dotted lines and have no credential checkpoints. Cultures blend into one another all the time, and elements that survive the transition do so because they remain meaningful.
    I think you are portraying the process as somewhat sanitised. Not all cultural exchanges are the result of benign blending between equals. Between some groups the difference in political power can be considerable, resulting in heavy cultural distortion. The obvious example is cultural genocide. However, cultural blending can have harmful affects of its own, especially when combined with repression, and there are many examples of this.

    For example, in Guatemala 2012, Maya people were unable to visit sacred sites in Tikal to celebrate the Bak'tun because it had been reserved for tourists attending for the '2012 end of the world thing,' which wasn't even Maya.

    There are also accounts of tourists going to archaeological sites and damaging them with ill-conceived rituals. The Serpent Mound was vandalised in such a manner. La Venta in Mexico suffered from a similar event.

    Then there are cases where 'Plastic Shamans' have taken real Indigenous ceremonies, and sold them to tourists (which is unscrupulous), causing injury and even death. This reflects badly on Indigenous cultures, despite them having little to do with such practises. Or taking drugs like Peyote or Ayahuasca, which can be dangerous in and of itself. However, it can also cause problems for communities that rely on such materials for their religion. Peyote in particular is vulnerable to over-consumption because it grows so slowly.

    This is further complicated because Indigenous Americans are heavily marginalised. In some places, like Mexico, their culture is acknowledged, but exploited by the state, a situation from which they derive little benefit. In the USA, Indigenous culture has been reduced to the point where it is almost invisible. This creates problems, because it is easy for fictional cultural traits to be attributed to certain groups. Or, a cultures traits get adopted, but their origins get forgotten about. Then the group from which they came either disappears from view, or becomes vulnerable to attack as members of an alien culture who don't 'contribute.'

    This doesn't mean that communication and sharing are impossible, or even undesirable. They are fairly normal. However, that does not mean that the context in which such sharing should be ignored. In other words, it is a reasonable thing to do, but it must be approached with care and cultural awareness.

  2. #12
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by Yei View Post
    I think you are portraying the process as somewhat sanitised. Not all cultural exchanges are the result of benign blending between equals. Between some groups the difference in political power can be considerable, resulting in heavy cultural distortion. The obvious example is cultural genocide. However, cultural blending can have harmful affects of its own, especially when combined with repression, and there are many examples of this.

    For example, in Guatemala 2012, Maya people were unable to visit sacred sites in Tikal to celebrate the Bak'tun because it had been reserved for tourists attending for the '2012 end of the world thing,' which wasn't even Maya.

    There are also accounts of tourists going to archaeological sites and damaging them with ill-conceived rituals. The Serpent Mound was vandalised in such a manner. La Venta in Mexico suffered from a similar event.

    Then there are cases where 'Plastic Shamans' have taken real Indigenous ceremonies, and sold them to tourists (which is unscrupulous), causing injury and even death. This reflects badly on Indigenous cultures, despite them having little to do with such practises. Or taking drugs like Peyote or Ayahuasca, which can be dangerous in and of itself. However, it can also cause problems for communities that rely on such materials for their religion. Peyote in particular is vulnerable to over-consumption because it grows so slowly.

    This is further complicated because Indigenous Americans are heavily marginalised. In some places, like Mexico, their culture is acknowledged, but exploited by the state, a situation from which they derive little benefit. In the USA, Indigenous culture has been reduced to the point where it is almost invisible. This creates problems, because it is easy for fictional cultural traits to be attributed to certain groups. Or, a cultures traits get adopted, but their origins get forgotten about. Then the group from which they came either disappears from view, or becomes vulnerable to attack as members of an alien culture who don't 'contribute.'

    This doesn't mean that communication and sharing are impossible, or even undesirable. They are fairly normal. However, that does not mean that the context in which such sharing should be ignored. In other words, it is a reasonable thing to do, but it must be approached with care and cultural awareness.
    Granted, but you need, in turn, to acknowledge that, for each cultural setting with the baggage you cite, there's at least another that doesn't.

    In the particular case, the interface between ancient Egyptians and Arabs is minimal, thanks to the Greco-Roman buffer between them, so I suspect that the misgivings have as much to do with (lack of) Arab ethnicity as (lack of) Islamic tradition, neither of which is really much of a thorny issue.
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  3. #13
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by WritchCodex View Post
    And that actually ties into my real reason for reviving this thread - my sister (yes, I'm asking for advice for her again) feels she has special affinity to ancient Egyptian spirituality, and she has taken on a particular magical name in order to reflect that. She's not sure if it's alright, though, because she has read that the name is both ancient Egyptian and Arabic Egyptian. Not sure if it's crossing a cultural gatekeeping boundary or not, she's unsure if she should drop the name or retain it.
    One of the guidelines I've heard that I like - though it's imperfect, I think it's a good starting place - is that things that would be open to children in that community without additional training / adult responsibilities / special experiences are probably okay if you're doing them respectfully and in the appropriate context, but anything more than that, you should not do that unless you go through the appropriate training / special experiences / etc. for that thing.

    (Which is possible in some cultural groups in a respectful and appropriate way in the right circumstances, and not in others.)

    So doing the thing an average household would do to celebrate X, probably okay. Doing the ritual that would require a religious figure with specific training or experiences, not so okay. For example, doing the candles and baked goods for Santa Lucia day, probably fine even if that's not your heritage, but running a religious service about it, not good unless you're clergy in an appropriate tradition with that training (since the religious traditions that celebrate it as a holy day have clergy training requirements.)

    There's also a question of how public something is: a ritual name your sister uses only in private is very different than one used in public, especially one that someone uses in public in a teaching, ritual leading, etc. role. (Though of course, even for private names, you want to think through the implications carefully.)

    That's both because the more public name is going to have a lot more commentary, and because, of course, people will make judgements about your approaches to things based on the name (some of which may not be accurate, but if you're concerned about appropriation, you wouldn't want a name that would signal that strongly.)
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  4. #14
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenett View Post
    There's also a question of how public something is: a ritual name your sister uses only in private is very different than one used in public, especially one that someone uses in public in a teaching, ritual leading, etc. role. (Though of course, even for private names, you want to think through the implications carefully.)

    That's both because the more public name is going to have a lot more commentary, and because, of course, people will make judgements about your approaches to things based on the name (some of which may not be accurate, but if you're concerned about appropriation, you wouldn't want a name that would signal that strongly.)
    That's a good point, and there are times that she uses the name as part of online pseudonyms, which I think she's much more worried about than the ritual use. She has used it in that context for years now, and no one has said anything, but she is still a little wary of maybe eventually offending someone. She feels comfortable using the name in rituals and all, but she's still uncertain of the implications of its use.

    I suppose if she's unsure, she can always just drop the name to err on the safe side, but that's probably a lot easier for me to SAY than it is for her to DO.

  5. #15
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by WritchCodex View Post
    That's a good point, and there are times that she uses the name as part of online pseudonyms, which I think she's much more worried about than the ritual use. She has used it in that context for years now, and no one has said anything, but she is still a little wary of maybe eventually offending someone. She feels comfortable using the name in rituals and all, but she's still uncertain of the implications of its use.
    It's really hard to make suggestions without knowing the name, but here's the stuff I'd think about:

    - What kinds of spaces is she using it in? (Pagan-friendly spaces where it's common for people to use a name related to their practice or spiritual interests are different than random online forum. Also, places with a culture of mentioning where a username came from may be different than places where there's no space for that.)

    - How identifiable the name is to people inside that culture and outside the culture.

    - Whether the name itself implies things about her connection to the culture, status in the culture, etc. (i.e. there's a 'This is a name I like that is also used in a bunch of ways' and 'this is a name I like which is normally only given to people from X small group or Y group with particular status' The second one is more of an issue.)

    - How widely the name is used in various contexts, especially outside the primary cultures it comes from. (And in this case, I'd look at 'how widely used it is in modern Arabic cultures and the impressions people will have from that')

    One of the things I think about a lot with names is an experience I had as a kid: I had a friend I saw in the summers who was adopted from Vietnam by Irish-heritage parents, and whose usual name in use explicitly read as Irish. (Especially in the Boston area of Massachusetts, where we were.)

    One summer, I brought a friend along from school who was startled that this person I'd been mentioning with Very Irish Name was very visibly Asian. (I hadn't mentioned the 'adopted from Vietnam' part because it hadn't come up).

    Mildly awkward, and solved quickly in that case, but I think in Pagan settings, there can be an issue of people expecting someone with expertise in X area from a name, and then being startled when the physical body doesn't match that (in names strongly associated with a particular place).

    There are plenty of ways to solve that, but they sometimes involve a bit more glossing than just using the name. (This is where the "I chose the name X because Y is important to my practice." sentences can come in.)
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  6. #16
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by Chatelaine View Post
    Granted, but you need, in turn, to acknowledge that, for each cultural setting with the baggage you cite, there's at least another that doesn't.

    In the particular case, the interface between ancient Egyptians and Arabs is minimal, thanks to the Greco-Roman buffer between them, so I suspect that the misgivings have as much to do with (lack of) Arab ethnicity as (lack of) Islamic tradition, neither of which is really much of a thorny issue.
    True. Just goes to show that context is everything.

  7. #17
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by troll maiden View Post
    I just wanted to get these thoughts of my chest, and find out others' opinions on the matter.
    My feeling (and it's just a feeling) is that anything done in private is probably at least harmless.

    If you want to do rain dances to a Native American spirit you picked up a postcard print of and you're the only one there, no harm no foul. You probably looked like a fool, but that's it.

    If you go out there and start telling people that you perform rain dances to Postcard Spirit, you're now on shaky ground.

    If you start *inviting people* to your Postcard Spirit Rain Dance, you're now being problematic. The more official the action, the more official knowledge you need. If you really like this Spirit, the best thing to do would be to start learning from the culture, humbly and respectfully, what they're willing to teach you, when they're willing to teach it.

    I also think that those *not in a culture* need to be careful about acting as self-appointed gatekeepers to the culture. I've had people get offended on my behalf over something that wasn't actually an issue, and it was intensely annoying because I had to jump in and correct the situation because an innocent person was being lambasted for something totally inoffensive. Nobody likes to be told that their misguided attempts at white-knighting are actually unnecessary.

    Gatekeeping by third parties, in its own way, can actually be as problematic as appropriation if done badly. It can also give the impression that a culture or group is far more closed or sensitive or easily offended than it actually is, which has the effect of causing people not to listen to them when there is an actual issue that needs addressing.


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  8. #18
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by Sorcha View Post
    My feeling (and it's just a feeling) is that anything done in private is probably at least harmless.

    If you want to do rain dances to a Native American spirit you picked up a postcard print of and you're the only one there, no harm no foul. You probably looked like a fool, but that's it.

    If you go out there and start telling people that you perform rain dances to Postcard Spirit, you're now on shaky ground.

    If you start *inviting people* to your Postcard Spirit Rain Dance, you're now being problematic. The more official the action, the more official knowledge you need. If you really like this Spirit, the best thing to do would be to start learning from the culture, humbly and respectfully, what they're willing to teach you, when they're willing to teach it.
    Very good points.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sorcha View Post
    I also think that those *not in a culture* need to be careful about acting as self-appointed gatekeepers to the culture. I've had people get offended on my behalf over something that wasn't actually an issue, and it was intensely annoying because I had to jump in and correct the situation because an innocent person was being lambasted for something totally inoffensive. Nobody likes to be told that their misguided attempts at white-knighting are actually unnecessary.

    Gatekeeping by third parties, in its own way, can actually be as problematic as appropriation if done badly. It can also give the impression that a culture or group is far more closed or sensitive or easily offended than it actually is, which has the effect of causing people not to listen to them when there is an actual issue that needs addressing.
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    Re: Cultural Gatekeepers

    Quote Originally Posted by ehbowen View Post
    Very good points.



    That's why I made the comment I did about "MYOB" unless someone was specifically asking for advice. In My Opinion the personalities, human and otherwise, connected to a specific belief system are a better judge of whether that tradition is being abused than any outside onlooker.
    Yup. I love (and by love I mean hate) people speaking for me when I'm literally standing right there.

    I mean, if I see something truly atrocious I definitely speak up as, being a white person, I have the privilege of being taken more seriously than a POC (although as a woman I face the joys of being accused of being "disrespectful" because I won't roll over and just agree with any random man in existence). But I try to make sure I'm relaying actual words and opinions of people being treated unfairly and clearing space for their voices to be heard, not speaking for them when they're right there to speak for themselves.


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