DISCUSSIONS: 1 – (MAY 26) Is “Cultural Appropriation” – it’s more than a tempest in a teapot

If I put on a PLAID TIE, do I also have to wear a sign saying I am using something of Scottish origin? If I make penne arriabiata, do I have to raise an ITALIAN flag?

These are serious questions today.

  

Toronto artist Amanda PL paints beautifully but is she stealing from the indigenous culture in Canada? Draw your own conclusions:

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 Update: Amanda PL exhibit pulled from gallery due to controversy and criticism for it being cultural appropriation. ( May 19, 2017) 

A second storm kicked up when an indigenous member of the Kanien’keha First Nation in Quebec, Jamie McGean criticized Dollarama stores for selling ‘dream catchers’ as souvenir trinkets alongside Canada 150 souvenirs. McGean has started an online petition asking that Dollarama stop stocking the products. Dollarama continues the sales and the petition seems to have waned in the wind.

View a sampling of ‘dream catchers’ which indigenous see as being religious artefacts:

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The short of it:
Cultural appropriation is cultural theft. A writer, a painter, a composer finds inspiration as they explore the world around them examining cultural artefacts of other cultures. Then, they create new works incorporating, insinuating or integrating aspects of the other culture into their own work. or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation is sometimes portrayed as harmful, framed as cultural misappropriation, and claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture. Often unavoidable when multiple cultures come together, cultural appropriation can include using other cultures’ traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and cultural songs without permission.

Is this authentic inspiration or cultural theft? Independent artistic creativity or artistic plagiarism?

The long of it:
Cultural appropriation is the adoption or use of the elements of one culture by members of another culture. Cultural appropriation is sometimes portrayed as harmful, framed as cultural misappropriation, and claimed to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture. Often unavoidable when multiple cultures come together, cultural appropriation can include using other cultures’ traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and cultural songs without permission.

Some have portrayed cultural appropriation as being harmful, framing it as cultural misappropriation and claiming to be a violation of the collective intellectual property rights of the originating culture.

Cultural appropriation often is unavoidable when multiple cultures collide. Cultural appropriation can include using other cultures’ traditions, fashion, symbols, language, and music without permission. [szp: permission from who, specifically?]

According to critics of the practice, cultural (mis)appropriation differs from acculturation, assimilation, or cultural exchange in that the “appropriation” or “misappropriation” refers to the adoption of these cultural elements in a colonial manner: elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, and these elements are used outside of their original cultural context — sometimes even against the expressly stated wishes of representatives of the originating culture.

Often, the original meaning of these cultural elements is lost or distorted, and such displays are often viewed as disrespectful by members of the originating culture, or even as a form of desecration. Cultural elements which may have deep meaning to the original culture may be reduced to “exotic” fashion or toys by those from the dominant culture. Kjerstin Johnson has written that, when this is done, the imitator, “who does not experience that oppression is able to ‘play’, temporarily, an ‘exotic’ other, without experiencing any of the daily discriminations faced by other cultures.”

The African-American academic, musician and journalist, Greg Tate, argues that appropriation and the “fetishizing” of cultures, in fact, alienates those whose culture is being appropriated. On the other hand, some scholars argue that the concept is misunderstood by the general public. Cultural appropriation is often misapplied to situations that don’t accurately fit.

Conversely, cultural appropriation or borrowing can be viewed as inevitable and a contribution to diversity and free expression. This view distinguishes outright theft of cultural artefacts or exotic stereotyping from more benign borrowing or appreciation. Cultural borrowing and cross-fertilization are seen by proponents as a generally positive thing, and as something which is usually done out of admiration of the cultures being imitated, with no intent to harm them.

Your opinion
Should cultural appropriation by regulated? By whom? how?

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