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Author Topic: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation  (Read 9363 times)

Tana

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2012, 01:13:18 pm »
Quote from: cigfran;41043
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."


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Juni

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2012, 01:14:00 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;41045
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).

 
Thanks for that, Nykti. I was hoping to hear from you- part of the impetus to post this thread was from your tumblr (wrt bindis.)

Also, can you expand PoC? I'm reading it as person/people of color, but I want to be sure.
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Nyktipolos

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2012, 01:16:14 pm »
Quote from: Juni;41050
Thanks for that, Nykti. I was hoping to hear from you- part of the impetus to post this thread was from your tumblr (wrt bindis.)

Also, can you expand PoC? I'm reading it as person/people of color, but I want to be sure.

 
You have my Tumblr? :o Oh right, I posted it in chat before. I forget I do that sometimes...

And yes, I meant people of colour/color. :)
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Juni

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #18 on: January 31, 2012, 01:19:57 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;41051
You have my Tumblr? :o Oh right, I posted it in chat before. I forget I do that sometimes...

And yes, I meant people of colour/color. :)

 
I don't have a tumblr of my own, but I follow through Google Reader. I've found some interesting stuff on there, but to a certain extent I still don't quite "get" it. :o (Of course, I don't "get" twitter, either- why do I need to know person X is in line at Starbucks right now, in 140 characters or less?)

But yes, the various cultural appropriation stuff you've blogged/reblogged has been kicking up dust in my head lately.
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Lokabrenna

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #19 on: January 31, 2012, 02:03:06 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;41048
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.


I believe she was invited to a sun dance at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota (or at least, she mentioned them a lot). Actually, perhaps "invited" isn't the right term, because it's one of those events where if you can find it, you were meant to be there. (I wish I could find the paper that she showed us which basically said: "We're putting this event on. If you can find it, you were meant to be there. Please don't come away from the event thinking you're a medicine person.")

This is actually what I found so disconcerting about the James Arthur Ray sweat lodge fiasco (which is appropriation in its worst form, IMHO). Here's this guy charging thousands of dollars to participate in a sweat (in unsafe conditions) when traditional cultures do this for free. (A white person might have a hard time getting invited to one, but some tribes are more open than others.) It just boils my blood and makes me sick to my stomach to see these beautiful traditions perverted in such a way because someone wants to make a quick buck (not to mention that we Europeans have similar traditions we can exploit instead). I'm not going to start on the "pay to pray" debate because I think there are perfectly legit reasons to pay for spiritual services, but there's something intrinsically wrong with hijacking a living culture's ritual, not following directions, and then having people killed as a result of your carelessness, to say nothing of the history of genocide between your culture and the one you're taking that ritual from.

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2012, 09:29:37 am »
Quote from: Tana;41037
It's not a question of dominance. It's a question of living.

 
Disagree (although I do agree that defunct cultures can be excluded from cultural appropriation issues).  To replace the Celtic tattoo example, I have no problem with someone getting a tattoo of a Korean proverb written in Korean characters even if they aren't Korean, or with a non-Christian person attending a church service.  However, I have big problems with a Christian person attending a Native American ceremony without an invitation.

That said, I also agree with what others have said - that culture NEEDS to be exchanged and adapted in order to grow.  However, as sentient, educated creatures who are aware of the emotional and cultural harm it causes to members of a source group when their traditions are appropriated (and I'm mostly talking about appropriations by members of a group by which the source group has been oppressed), we need to proceed with that in mind.  Just because OUR culture is fairly open-source and we want to keep it that way, it doesn't mean members of other cultures feel the same way.

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2012, 09:41:11 am »
Quote from: benvarry;41118
Just because OUR culture is fairly open-source and we want to keep it that way, it doesn't mean members of other cultures feel the same way.


This is a really good point that I need to bear in mind myself, when fulminating against the abuses of the idea of cultural appropriation.

However - and this is more of a conversational gambit than an attempt at argument - even most 'closed' cultures freely borrow from what we think of as the dominant culture. There are very (if any) few fully realized societies secreted away in the forests and mountains of the world, and exposure to the artifacts and ideas of the wider world renders everything permeable.

Maps

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2012, 12:35:14 pm »
Quote from: Juni;40965


One of the tenets of the cultural appropriation bandwagon I find problematic and... quite silly, to be frank, is that it's not appropriation if you've got the blood in you.

I read a tumblr post in this vein about dreadlocks, and how white people shouldn't wear them UNLESS they are of Celtic descent; it was heavily insinuated that they should be harassed until they could provide evidence of a cultural claim to the hairstyle, which I find completely unnecessary, and depending on the zealousness of the person doing the culture policing, extremely inappropriate and counter-productive. I should not have to carry around a copy of my family tree dating back 20 generations in order to wear some symbol that comes from a culture that it doesn't look like I belong to. I absolutely refuse to have to cite my race credentials in order to dress the way I want to dress, worship how I want to worship, and just plain be who I want to be. When it comes right down to it, I don't owe anybody that, and this attitude of "guilty until proven innocent" just plain sucks on the individual scale.

And what about those of us who have little to no clue as to where our family came from and is only familiar with the history 2 or 3 generations back at most? Are we on culture lockdown and have to dress and look as white (which is default) as possible to avoid offending anybody?
« Last Edit: February 01, 2012, 12:37:33 pm by Maps »

Nyktipolos

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2012, 12:55:46 pm »
Quote from: benvarry;41118
However, I have big problems with a Christian person attending a Native American ceremony without an invitation.

 
Many Natives are still Christian, and still practice the traditions of their people. Annnd they don't seem to have a problem with it?
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mandrina

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2012, 01:08:52 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;41132
Many Natives are still Christian, and still practice the traditions of their people. Annnd they don't seem to have a problem with it?


maybe a different way to say it would be 'if the religious services are closed to those not of that religion, then there is a problem with a nonmember attending without an invitation'.  This would extend to some christian denominations or particular christian rituals as well.

Most christian denominations welcome visitors since most christian denominations are at least somewhat evangelistic.
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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #25 on: February 01, 2012, 01:18:29 pm »
Quote from: Maps;41130
I read a tumblr post in this vein about dreadlocks, and how white people shouldn't wear them UNLESS they are of Celtic descent; it was heavily insinuated that they should be harassed until they could provide evidence of a cultural claim to the hairstyle, which I find completely unnecessary, and depending on the zealousness of the person doing the culture policing, extremely inappropriate and counter-productive.


That's a bit confusing, as most of the discussions I see on dreadlocks are about appropriating from black cultures, not Celtic (considering the fact that the dreadlock style people mention from Celtic cultures are not what we see as dreadlocks today).

For the most part I only see people asking that people acknowledge the history of hairstyles like dreadlocks as coming from a particular movement. There is a similar discussion with mohawks/fauxhawks, which also don't look like the traditional hairstyles they're sort-of modeled after. And once again with that, most Mohawk people don't really care as long as you're not trying to "act Indian" or deliberately trying to re-create hairstyles from their culture without any sort of knowledge of these practices.

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I should not have to carry around a copy of my family tree dating back 20 generations in order to wear some symbol that comes from a culture that it doesn't look like I belong to.


No one is asking you to. But if you're using a symbol, an item, or a spiritual practice and someone from that culture tells you "No, stop doing this please", you stop.

Quote
I absolutely refuse to have to cite my race credentials in order to dress the way I want to dress, worship how I want to worship, and just plain be who I want to be. When it comes right down to it, I don't owe anybody that, and this attitude of "guilty until proven innocent" just plain sucks on the individual scale.


No one is actually asking you to (although Natives are often questioned about "how much Native" they "really" have in them, which has led to the racist idea of "blood quantum"). The point is: if the people of that culture tell you not to use these things, you just don't use them. Otherwise, you are culturally appropriating from them.

Quote
And what about those of us who have little to no clue as to where our family came from and is only familiar with the history 2 or 3 generations back at most?


That's not the problem or the fault of anyone else. It also doesn't, once again, give you license to culturally appropriate from other cultures.

Quote
Are we on culture lockdown and have to dress and look as white (which is default) as possible to avoid offending anybody?

 
I don't really know what's so difficult about the idea of researching the opinions of people from minority cultures on certain items. If you actually want to find out if you can use certain things from a Native tribe, you should actually go and talk to people from that tribe (and not from the internet, because the majority of shit out there on "Native American Spirituality" is complete bull).
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Nyktipolos

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #26 on: February 01, 2012, 01:22:50 pm »
Quote from: mandrina;41133
maybe a different way to say it would be 'if the religious services are closed to those not of that religion, then there is a problem with a nonmember attending without an invitation'.  This would extend to some christian denominations or particular christian rituals as well.

Most christian denominations welcome visitors since most christian denominations are at least somewhat evangelistic.


That, I can understand. I just think the difference is, is that there is no "Native American religion". Most Natives refer to it as their spirituality (which I know we've had this discussion on before TC with "religion vs spirituality"), and thus see no conflict between practicing their traditions and being Christian. That's where my confusion was coming in.
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Jenett

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #27 on: February 01, 2012, 01:35:49 pm »
Quote from: Maps;41130

And what about those of us who have little to no clue as to where our family came from and is only familiar with the history 2 or 3 generations back at most? Are we on culture lockdown and have to dress and look as white (which is default) as possible to avoid offending anybody?

 
The thing is, choices about some things make statements. I tend to think it's useful to know what statements we're making, so we can make better choices about them. (My father was a theatre professor, so I grew up with this awareness that one way we make quick snapshots of people is through clothing and movement choices.)

I also think there are lots of fascinating, awesome ways to dress, and that some of them are very linked to particular cultures (dreadlocks), some much more loosely so (brightly colored hair may be heavily associated with punk, originally, but put it with a different style of dress, and it reads very differently, for example)

I tend to think the best approach is something like wearing a piece of religious jewelry: if you can't figure out a good, brief, non-offensive explanation for why you're wearing it, you should maybe not be wearing it where other people can see it. Because for every person who asks, there's probably dozens who won't, but will make assumptions. You can counter many of those assumptions by other choices in dress, behaviour, etc. - but you need to be aware of whether you want to.

(The question of *whether* you share that is entirely different, but I find the act of being prepared to have an answer helps me hone whether or not that's a presentation of myself I want to make to the world.)

So if someone honestly wants to wear dreadlocks, and comes up with an answer of "Oh, yes, I know they come from X culture, but I'm drawn to them because of Y reason.", that's one thing. Someone who is stuck at "They look cool, and I don't care that they have significant meaning" is still in a place that's very likely appropriative.

As to the question of history - even if you don't know the details, the history's still there. My own family history is very white, but complicated - English way back on my father's side, Austrian, Hungarian, and Jewish on my mother's - and one of the tricks for us is that Mom's side of the family, time and time again, assimilated heavily into the dominant culture for survival.

Does that mean I get to say I'm Jewish by ancestry? No (Mom's father was the Jewish side, so I'm not by Jewish law.) Does it mean I should pick up Jewish cultural customs wholesale? No.

But does it mean that certain things that are common among Jewish families are also part of my family background (a really strong emphasis that education is the one thing people can't take away from you, for example.) Yes. And does it mean I've got a greater interest in Jewish (and Eastern European) history, even though that's two generations removed? (Mom and her parents were refugees from Hitler: she grew up almost entirely in the UK.)

You get the idea. You can sometimes - often, I think - trace the lines back, and consider the options, without either appropriating things that do have cultural boundaries *or* assuming there's nothing there of interest. And these days, the research is getting easier and easier to do on where your family came from. (25 years ago, when my sister was working on tracing Mom's side of the family, she would have had to go to three different countries - and at least two different languages - to get records: these days, a bunch of them are available via Ancestry.com and related digital projects.)
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cigfran

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #28 on: February 01, 2012, 03:01:35 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;41136
...Natives are often questioned about "how much Native" they "really" have in them, which has led to the racist idea of "blood quantum...


As I understand it, they do this themselves. Tribal membership is determined by their own idea of the 'blood quantum.' I seem to recall a news item from last year where a group of blacks who had been adopted members of a particular tribe, had that membership revoked on strictly racial grounds.


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If you actually want to find out if you can use...


Can and can't are not the same as will and won't.

Maps

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Re: The Line Between Cultural Appreciation and Cultural Appropriation
« Reply #29 on: February 01, 2012, 03:10:54 pm »
Quote from: Nyktipolos;41136
I don't really know what's so difficult about the idea of researching the opinions of people from minority cultures on certain items. If you actually want to find out if you can use certain things from a Native tribe, you should actually go and talk to people from that tribe (and not from the internet, because the majority of shit out there on "Native American Spirituality" is complete bull).

I'm not speaking from a place of ignorance about the subject-- I follow quite a few blogs that talk about this a lot, and as a partial minority (and woowoo with probably native blood) myself, I agree with 95% of what's currently being said about appropriation. This is just me voicing my opinion about one aspect of the ongoing discussion about it, and why I think this one particular attitude is crappy.

Quote from: Nyktipolos;41136
That's a bit confusing, as most of the discussions I see on dreadlocks are about appropriating from black cultures, not Celtic (considering the fact that the dreadlock style people mention from Celtic cultures are not what we see as dreadlocks today).

Yes, that was mentioned, hence the "white people" part-- their argument was that people who aren't visibly African-American better have Celtic ancestry if they're going to wear dreadlocks, otherwise it's appropriation.

Quote from: Nyktipolos;41136
No one is asking you to. But if you're using a symbol, an item, or a spiritual practice and someone from that culture tells you "No, stop doing this please", you stop.

No one is actually asking you to (although Natives are often questioned about "how much Native" they "really" have in them, which has led to the racist idea of "blood quantum"). The point is: if the people of that culture tell you not to use these things, you just don't use them. Otherwise, you are culturally appropriating from them.

Actually, yes, there are people more or less asking this is what my original point was. Their demand is that you have blood ties, and if you don't, then you have no right to look to their culture for anything, basically. That the membership card of ancestry trumps even real-life cultural involvement and exposure.

Hopefully that clarifies what I was trying to say.

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