cultural appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group. It denotes acculturation or assimilation, but often connotes a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture.[1][2] It can include the introduction of forms of dress or personal adornment, music and art, religion, language, or social behavior. These elements, once removed from their indigenous cultural contexts, may take on meanings that are significantly divergent from, or merely less nuanced than, those they originally held. Or, they may be stripped of meaning altogether.

Overview

The term cultural appropriation can have a negative connotation. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture; or, when there are other issues involved, such as a history of ethnic or racial conflict between the two groups.

To many, the term implies that culture can actually be "stolen" through cultural diffusion.

Cultural and racial theorist, George Lipsitz, outlined this concept of cultural appropriation in his seminal term "strategic anti-essentialism". Strategic anti-essentialism is defined as the calculated use of a cultural form, outside of your own, to define yourself or your group. Strategic anti-essentialism can be seen both in minority cultures and majority cultures, and are not confined to only the appropriation of the other. For example, the American band Redbone, comprised of founding members of Mexican heritage, essentialized their group as belonging to the Native American tradition, and are known for their famous songs in support of the American Indian Movement "We Were All Wounded at Wounded Knee" and "Custer Had It Coming". However, as Lipsitz argues, when the majority culture attempts to strategically anti-essentialize themselves by appropriating a minority culture, they must take great care to recognize the specific socio-historical circumstances and significance of these cultural forms so as not the perpetuate the already existing, majority vs. minority, unequal power relations.

Cultural appropriation may be defined differently in different cultures. While academics in a country such as the United States, where racial dynamics had been a cause of cultural segmentation, may see many instances of intercultural communication as cultural appropriation, other countries may identify such communication as a melting pot effect.

An example of this concept in the United States would be the stigma towards white rappers (sometimes referred to as wiggers or wannabes). Elvis Presley is known by many for his cultural appropriation of black musical traditions. While some have claimed he has "stolen" black music, others, such as James Brown, refer to him as a "soul brother". This debate raises questions over whether culture can be stolen.

Cultural appropriation has also been seen as a site of resistance to dominant society when members of a marginalized group take and alter aspects of dominant culture to assert their agency and resistance. This is exemplified in the novel Crick Crack, Monkey by Merle Hodge when those who are colonized appropriate the culture of the colonizers. Another historical example were the Mods in the UK in the 1960s, working class youth who appropriated and exaggerated the highly tailored clothing of the upper middle class. Objections have been raised to such political cultural appropriation, citing class warfare and identity politics.

Support

Justin Britt-Gibson's article for the Washington Post looked at the appropriation of his African-American culture as a sign of progress:

Throngs of dreadlocked Italians were smoking joints, drinking beer, grooving to the rhythms of Bob Marley, Steel Pulse and other reggae icons. Most striking was how comfortable these Italians seemed in their appropriated shoes, adopting a foreign culture and somehow making it theirs. The scene reinforced my sense of how far we've come since the days when people dressed, talked and celebrated only that which sprang from their own background. For the first time in my life, I was fully aware of the spiritual concept that we're all simply one.

That sense hasn't left me. Everywhere I look, I see young people -- such as my two younger brothers, a Japanese-anime-obsessed 11-year-old and a pastel-Polo-sporting 21-year-old -- adopting styles, hobbies and attitudes from outside the culture in which they were raised. Last month in a Los Angeles barbershop, I was waiting to get my trademark Afro cut when I noticed a brother in his late teens sitting, eyes closed, as the barber clipped his hair into a "'frohawk", the punk-inspired African American adaptation of the mohawk. Asked why he chose the look, the guy, without looking up, shrugged, "Something different." Immediately, I understood. Minutes later, his "different" cut became my new look.[1]

Examples

A common sort of cultural appropriation is the adoption of the iconography of another culture. Obvious examples include tattoos of Hindu gods, Polynesian tribal iconography, Chinese characters, or Celtic bands worn by people who have no interest in, or understanding of, their cultural significance. When these artifacts are regarded as objects that merely "look cool", or when they are mass produced cheaply as consumer kitsch, people who venerate and wish to preserve their indigenous cultural traditions may be offended. In Australia, Aboriginal artists have discussed an 'authenticity brand' to ensure consumers are aware of artworks claiming false Aboriginal significance [3]. The movement for such a measure has gained momentum after the 1999 conviction of John O'Loughlin for fraud, for the sale of works described as Aboriginal but painted by non-indigenous artists [4].

Looking back in history, some of the most hotly debated cases of cultural appropriation occur in places where cultural exchange is the highest, such as along the trade routes in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe. For instance, some scholars of the Ottoman empire and ancient Egypt argue that Ottoman and Egyptian architectural traditions have long been falsely claimed and praised as Persian or Arab, [5] and Greco-Roman, innovations, respectively.

In Serbia, many foods and drinks had been appropriated from the Ottomans. For example, some consider Moussaka to be a Serbian national food, while in fact it was brought by a foreign influence.

A more subtle example is brass band music (trubaci). While this kind of music is almost exclusively performed by Romani people, who may not consider themselves Serbs, many people of Serbian origin will consider this to be their own style.

On the other hand, when the middle-class Slovenian band Pankrti adopted the style of London punk music rooted in unemployment and other issues specific to the UK, it was seen in Yugoslavia as the spread of British culture and its adaptation to the local setting.

In some cases, groups may agree that a particular tradition has been culturally appropriated, but disagree as to which group is the authentic heir to the tradition, and which is the appropriator. For example, in the ongoing dispute between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, each side has accused the other of falsely appropriating the cultural legacy of Macedon and Alexander the Great.[6]

African American culture historically has been the subject of aggressive cultural appropriation, especially elements of its music, dance, slang, dress, and demeanor. (See blackface.) For example, artists such as Eminem, a white American who adopted a traditionally African American music and style, may be perceived this way.

Another prominent example of cultural appropriation is the use of real or imaginary elements of Native American culture by North American summer camps, by organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, or by New age spiritual leaders (see Plastic shamans). Many summer camps, and many age-segregated groups of campers within summer camps, are named after real Native American tribes (Mohawk, Seminole, etc.); tipis are common at summer camps (even at an enormous distance from the Great Plains); and rituals often evoke Native American culture, using phrases like "the Great Spirit", for example. The Boy Scout honor society is called the Order of the Arrow.

In some cases, a culture usually viewed as the target of cultural appropriation can become the agent of appropriation. For example, the government of Ghana has been accused of cultural appropriation in adopting the Caribbean holiday of Emancipation Day and marketing it to African American tourists as an "African festival".[2].

A bindi dot when worn as a decorative item by a non-Hindu woman could be considered cultural appropriation,[3] along with the use of henna in mehndi as a decoration outside traditional ceremonies.

Non-Arabs or non-Palestinians wearing a keffiyeh might be seen as appropriating a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.

The metrosexual fashion is often seen as a form of cultural appropriation of gay culture by straight men. This view is parodied in the South Park episode "South Park is Gay!"

Controversy has arisen concerning the usage of the leprechaun mascot by the Boston Celtics basketball club and the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. Some people of Irish ancestry see the usage as an example of cultural appropriation and even racism. Leprechauns appear in many Celtic mythological motifs, and the reduction of this mythological figure to a set of stereotypes and clichés may be perceived as offensive. [7][8] A common term amongst the Irish for someone who appropriates or misrepresents Irish culture is Plastic Paddy.[4]

See also

Notes and references

1. ^ Race Isn't a Factor When My Generation Chooses Friends.
2. ^ Jennifer Hasty, "Rites of Passage, Routes of Redemption: Emancipation Tourism and the Wealth of Culture", Africa Today, Volume 49, Number 3, Fall 2002, pp. 47-76. Indiana University Press. PDF available on subscription site muse.jhu.edu.
3. ^ Salil Tripathi, Hindus and Kubrick, The New Statesman, 20 September 1999. Accessed online 23 November 2006.
4. ^ Arrowsmith, Aidan (April 1, 2000). "Plastic Paddy: Negotiating Identity in Second-generation 'Irish-English' Writing". Irish Studies Review 8 (1): 35-43. DOI:10.1080/09670880050005093. 

  • Reckless Borrowing or Appropriate Cultural Sharing? by Jaqui James

External links

Acculturation is the psychological and social counter-part of cultural diffusion. Originally "acculturation" referred to the colonial racist idea that so-called "savages" and "lower peoples" experience mental evolution when they imitate so-called "civilized" or "higher peoples"
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religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people, often codified as prayer, ritual, and religious law. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience.
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A language is a system of symbols and the rules used to manipulate them. Language can also refer to the use of such systems as a general phenomenon.
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The term indigenous peoples has no universal, standard or fixed definition, but can be used about any ethnic group who inhabit the geographic region with which they have the earliest historical connection.
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ethnic group or ethnicity is a population of human beings whose members identify with each other, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry.[1] Ethnicity is also defined from the recognition by others as a distinct group[2]
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RACE can refer to:
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The name or term Redbone has several meanings:
  • Redbone Coonhound is a swift, dark-red or tan coonhound (a dog bred to chase raccoons).
  • Redbone (ethnicity) is a vaguely-defined ethnic group whose members belong to two or more of various ethnic groups, and is found in

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Motto
"In God We Trust"   (since 1956)
"E Pluribus Unum"   ("From Many, One"; Latin, traditional)
Anthem
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The melting pot is a metaphor for the way in which societies develop, in which the ingredients in the pot (people of different cultures, races and religions) are combined so as to develop a multi-ethnic society.
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Motto
"In God We Trust"   (since 1956)
"E Pluribus Unum"   ("From Many, One"; Latin, traditional)
Anthem
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Elvis Aaron Presley[1][2] (January 8, 1935–August 16, 1977), was an American singer, musician, actor, writer, and producer. He is a cultural icon, often known as "The King of Rock 'n' Roll", or simply "The King".
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James Joseph Brown (May 3 1933[1][2] – December 25 2006), commonly referred to as "The Godfather of Soul" and "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business
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Merle Hodge, °1944, is a Trinidadian scholar and novelist. After studying and traveling abroad for years, she returned to the Caribbean where she currently holds a position at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad.
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The mod (shortened from the original term modernist) subculture originated in London in the late 1950s and peaked in the early to mid 1960s.[1][2][3][4][5] The mod lifestyle is sometimes referred to as modism
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Motto
"Dieu et mon droit" [2]   (French)
"God and my right"
Anthem
"God Save the Queen" [3]
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Class Warfare

Author Noam Chomsky
Publisher Pluto Press
Publication date April, 1996
Media type Paperback
Pages 185
ISBN ISBN 1-5675-1092-2

Class Warfare is a book of interviews with Noam Chomsky conducted by David Barsamian.
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Identity politics is political action to advance the interests of members of a group supposed to be oppressed by virtue of a shared and marginalized identity (such as race or gender). The term has been used principally in United States politics since the 1970s.
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Dreadlocks, sometimes called simply locks or dreads, are matted ropes of hair which will form by themselves if the hair is allowed to grow naturally without the use of brushes, combs, razors or scissors for a long period of time.
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For the comedian, see Bob Marley (comedian).


Robert "Bob" Nesta Marley OM (February 6, 1945 – May 11 1981) was a Jamaican singer, songwriter, guitarist, and activist. He is the most widely known performer of reggae music.
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Steel Pulse is a well-known roots reggae musical band. They originally formed at Handsworth Wood Boys School, in Birmingham, England and comprised of David Hinds (lead vocals, guitar), Basil Gabbidon (lead guitar, vocals) and Ronald McQueen (bass).
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Reggae is a music genre developed in Jamaica in the late 1960s.

The term 'reggae' is sometimes used in a broad sense to refer to most types of Jamaican music, although the word specifically indicates a particular music style that originated after the development of ska and
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Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", or painting, and comes from the Greek
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A tattoo, or dermal pigmentation, is a mark made by inserting pigment into the skin for decorative or other reasons. Tattoos on humans are a type of decorative body modification, while tattoos on animals are most commonly used for identification or branding.
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Hindu ( pronunciation  , Devanagari: हिन्दु), as per modern definition, is an adherent of the philosophies and scriptures of Hinduism, and the
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deity or god is a postulated preternatural or supernatural being, who is always of significant power, worshipped, thought holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, or respected by human beings.
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Polynesia (from Greek: πολύς many, νῆσος island) is a subregion of Oceania, comprising a large grouping of over 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean.
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