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Author Topic: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation  (Read 8482 times)

Juni

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I started this post with a really long-winded explanation of how I arrived at this particular set of questions, but I realized it's mostly ramblings more fit for my blog than here. So:

Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? How can a non-member of a culture appreciate the beauty of another culture without appropriating it? Can a non-member ever participate (I'm thinking secular activities here) without it being disrespectful?

I would be deeply appreciative of examples (like, doing X is appropriation, but doing Y instead is okay.)
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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 10:30:04 pm »
Quote from: Juni;40965
I started this post with a really long-winded explanation of how I arrived at this particular set of questions, but I realized it's mostly ramblings more fit for my blog than here. So:

Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? How can a non-member of a culture appreciate the beauty of another culture without appropriating it? Can a non-member ever participate (I'm thinking secular activities here) without it being disrespectful?

I would be deeply appreciative of examples (like, doing X is appropriation, but doing Y instead is okay.)


IMO if the non-member is invited to participate by those whose culture it is, it is not appropriation.
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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 11:27:48 pm »
Quote from: mlr52;40974
IMO if the non-member is invited to participate by those whose culture it is, it is not appropriation.

 
That's an excellent conceptualization.

I also don't think it's appropriation if the source culture is the dominant one.  Which I guess is obvious, but it deserves mention anyway, I think.  Thus, Celtic-ish tattoos on non-Celtic people = okay.  Maori tattoos on non-Maori people = generally not okay.

HeartShadow

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2012, 06:18:13 am »
Quote from: Juni;40965

I would be deeply appreciative of examples (like, doing X is appropriation, but doing Y instead is okay.)

 
I'm going to add to the other good answers - the culture has to be LIVING to be appropriated from.  You can't appropriate from the Greeks, f'ex.

If the culture IS living, appropriation would be appearing to be part of that culture or taking the shiny parts.  LIKING Native American art and buying it because it's on sale - no problem.  MAKING it and selling it AS NA art, because you're "just as good" - BIIIIIIG problem!

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2012, 06:28:15 am »
Quote from: Juni;40965

Where is the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation? How can a non-member of a culture appreciate the beauty of another culture without appropriating it? Can a non-member ever participate (I'm thinking secular activities here) without it being disrespectful?

 
The explanation I've liked for a while is that it's okay to go as far into something as  a lay person of a given culture without further training.

Ergo: it is fine, say, as a non-Catholic, to attend Mass and see what it's like. It is not okay to take communion (restricted in that community) or say "Hey, I'm a priest now!" (even more so.)

It is okay to attend a public event (a pow-wow, a religious service, a magical activity): it is not okay to say "And now I'm from that culture/know everything about it/etc." if those claims would require further training/background/experience/whatever.

In some cases, people from outside a culture *can* get that, eventually, if you choose to put the effort in. In other cases, you're never going to be able to.
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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2012, 06:30:33 am »
Quote from: HeartShadow;41001
If the culture IS living, appropriation would be appearing to be part of that culture or taking the shiny parts.  LIKING Native American art and buying it because it's on sale - no problem.  MAKING it and selling it AS NA art, because you're "just as good" - BIIIIIIG problem!

 
Emphasis mine. This is the only thing I think of as cultural appropriation: dishonest, casual and foolish representation.

Appropriation. Syncretism. Eclecticism. Post-modernism. All aspects of the endless flow and interchange of real culture, always. Cultural appropriation is, I think, an overfed bugbear that, while a real phenomenon that is useful to be aware of, also reifies notional barriers.

Culture is a not a conserved quantity.

RandallS

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2012, 07:59:01 am »
Quote from: cigfran;41004
Emphasis mine. This is the only thing I think of as cultural appropriation: dishonest, casual and foolish representation.

Especially the dishonest.

Quote
Appropriation. Syncretism. Eclecticism. Post-modernism. All aspects of the endless flow and interchange of real culture, always. Cultural appropriation is, I think, an overfed bugbear that, while a real phenomenon that is useful to be aware of, also reifies notional barriers.

Yes. This is what cultures do. Borrow from those other cultures they are in contact with. It's happened as far back as we have records and, unless we reach some point where there is only one culture, it will continue. I can understand that it upsets some people, especially in less "open" cultures, but its not going to stop and would probably be bad for humanity if it did. There are more and less annoying ways to do it, of course.
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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2012, 11:36:27 am »
Quote from: mlr52;40974
IMO if the non-member is invited to participate by those whose culture it is, it is not appropriation.

 
Invitation is definitely a big part of it. I am not an indigenous person, but I have a drum that I like to use sometimes. This is only because I was invited by an elder to make it with my own hands, and was given some teachings about the drum. I respect it and what little I know about it. I don't try to pretend that it is my culture. It was a great gift that I was humbled to receive.

IMHO, reading what an "elder" wrote about a ceremony on the internet is definitely not the same as being invited to a ceremony by a well-respected elder.

thorsvin

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2012, 11:38:42 am »
Quote from: Jenett;41003
The explanation I've liked for a while is that it's okay to go as far into something as  a lay person of a given culture without further training.

Ergo: it is fine, say, as a non-Catholic, to attend Mass and see what it's like. It is not okay to take communion (restricted in that community) or say "Hey, I'm a priest now!" (even more so.)

It is okay to attend a public event (a pow-wow, a religious service, a magical activity): it is not okay to say "And now I'm from that culture/know everything about it/etc." if those claims would require further training/background/experience/whatever.

In some cases, people from outside a culture *can* get that, eventually, if you choose to put the effort in. In other cases, you're never going to be able to.

 
^ This.

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2012, 11:52:21 am »
Quote from: benvarry;40977
Thus, Celtic-ish tattoos on non-Celtic people = okay.  Maori tattoos on non-Maori people = generally not okay.


It's not a question of dominance. It's a question of living.
There is no 'Celtic' culture nowadays. (Even in the past it was a very fluid concept for all the peoples under the Celtic caption.)

The Maori otoh exist.
Their culture exists.
You are not Maori, you have no right to their traditional tattoos. Period.
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cigfran

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #10 on: January 31, 2012, 12:13:04 pm »
Quote from: Tana;41037
You are not Maori, you have no right to their traditional tattoos. Period.

This is entirely too prescriptive and proprietary for me.

It's an imperfect analogy, but 'unconventional' marriage no more diminishes the value of 'conventional' marriage than does the wearing of a Maori by a non-Maori diminish the value and meaning of that tattoo for a Maori.

This is what I mean by saying that culture is not a conserved quantity.

What I find most unfortunate are 'temporary' versions of this kind of thing. I say, if you're going to rock such an intense look, have the fortitude to live it.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2012, 12:13:23 pm by cigfran »

cigfran

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2012, 12:27:56 pm »
Quote from: cigfran;41040
This is entirely too prescriptive and proprietary for me.

It's an imperfect analogy, but 'unconventional' marriage no more diminishes the value of 'conventional' marriage than does the wearing of a Maori by a non-Maori diminish the value and meaning of that tattoo for a Maori.

This is what I mean by saying that culture is not a conserved quantity.

What I find most unfortunate are 'temporary' versions of this kind of thing. I say, if you're going to rock such an intense look, have the fortitude to live it.


Though, to contradict myself, I have to admit that if I saw someone obviously not-Maori wearing a full Maori facial tattoo, I would read them as saying "Look at me, I'm Maori" and my response would be "no, you're not."

Unless they had amazing panache.

I mean, beauty is its own purpose. Strength of character is worthy.

Blather. I hope I'm allowed to quote and reply to myself, in lieu if editing a prior response, when I have further thoughts.

Lokabrenna

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2012, 12:47:18 pm »
Quote from: mlr52;40974
IMO if the non-member is invited to participate by those whose culture it is, it is not appropriation.


I would say this too. One of my professors was invited to a sun dance ceremony by the people holding it. Actually, I'd venture a guess and say that many of my profs. have been invited to religious ceremonies when they themselves were not part of that religion.

Nyktipolos

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2012, 01:09:24 pm »
Quote from: Juni;40965


 
Because this popped up on my Tumblr dash today, I thought it was highly appropriate to post here: Cultural Appropriation Do's and Don't's, a resource list on cultural appropriation with a mostly First Nations/Native American focus to it, but much of it can be applied to other colonized or constantly appropriated-from peoples.

For me, the line is when people (usually from the dominant culture, and in North America this is white people) take something from a culture that is pre-dominantly PoC, and the people of that culture say "No, don't take that; it's sacred" and they take it anyways. The problem comes in when the dominant class has been doing this for decades, even centuries, and many people no longer recognize using these sacred things as being wrong (I can't even begin to count how many people I've run into who have gotten offended at being told that wearing a feathered headdress or a tattoo of a "Native Chief" is racist).
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Nyktipolos

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2012, 01:12:41 pm »
Quote from: Lokabrenna;41044
I would say this too. One of my professors was invited to a sun dance ceremony by the people holding it. Actually, I'd venture a guess and say that many of my profs. have been invited to religious ceremonies when they themselves were not part of that religion.

 
Sun Dances are usually very private, with very few non-Native people invited. And it's actually not uncommon for non-Native people to hold their own Sun Dances (with little training or education on the whys and hows of the Sun Dance). I'm not trying to say the Sun Dance your prof(s?) went to was fake, but I just wanted to alert you (and the thread) to the fact that non-Native people have taken this ceremony and are doing it for other people.

Which, when you think about it, is really effed up.
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